61 Days of Halloween: Paranormal Activity
Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.
Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.
Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.
Paranormal Activity is the kind of movie that generates so much hype that people are likely to end up on either extreme with regards to their opinion of the film. There are definitely kudos to be given to Paramount and their marketing scheme for this film. That, and that alone about this film, is pure genius and I am sure it made many more people want to see this film than otherwise would’ve wanted to – myself included. The expectations were then heightened by hyperbolic reviews like “scariest of decade” and references to “scaring the living hell out of” people.
As ingenious as it is, and one can’t really dispute that, it is ultimately a wolf in sheep’s clothing, meaning if you’ve seen The Blair Witch Project or one of its many first person knock-offs over the last 10 years then you’ve seen Paranormal Activity. This has a somewhat more definitive ending than most but even still it ends up being ultimately ineffective as whole.
It is undeniable that there is a sense of dread and foreboding throughout, after a certain point, but it is much too subdued for a while. There is much anticipation, and while the subtlety is to be appreciated, there isn’t enough escalation of incidents throughout. Many of the first few recorded events are very minor. In my opinion, a more incessant film out this year was a The Haunting in Connecticut. One might dispute the merits of where that story goes but it is incessant, you might call it cliché but no one is calling this film original.
It’s only 86 minutes long, and not only does it seem longer, but even while being that short it manages to be repetitive. There are several fights about stopping the taping, not buying a Ouija board and whether or not to contact a demonologist. Almost each and every incident needs to be reviewed on video or in audio and they feel it necessary for the audience as well as the characters because the shots aren’t clear, or the incident perhaps too subtle. So, in being redundant in its two most vital aspects, verbally and visually; it is doomed to fail.
While found footage, an updated cinéma vérité style, might more aptly be called progeny of the YouTube age, and believe me there is nothing wrong with that, as I note in another article, what it does create and perpetuate is bad framing. Framing is being turned into a lost art; however, it is fine if it exists through most of this film but there a moments in this film where you would have preferred a clearer shot of something even if that something was the book of demonic illustrations the likes of which we’ve seen in myriad horror films.
While this film cannot be knocked for keeping a consistent level of tension that level is far too low, and never really escalated. It’s a flat-liner, which is unforgivable. The acting is passable but not going to sink or save this film unlike its godfather The Blair Witch Project, which is elevated and believable due to the strength of the performances.
Ultimately, the good that will come from this film is from the marketing. While they tried to make the film seem like a real event with no opening title and closing title sequence, I doubt with the internet as ubiquitous as it is now that many people believe that as they did 10 years ago. However, the legacy it will leave is due completely to people wanting to see it due to buzz. I wouldn’t doubt if a similar tactic was used again and we can only hope it’s selling a better product.