Monday, October 19, 2009
You know those few moments of darkness between the end of the movie and when the theatre turns on the house lights? When your horror movie has people in the audience yelling 'TURN ON THE LIGHTS!' since they can't bear those few moments, you know you've got a winner on your hands. Paranormal Activity is the best horror movie I've seen in ages. I beg of you, see it in a theatre, preferably a busy one. There are few film experiences better than seeing a genuinely great horror or suspense flick amidst a packed house that is really wrapped up in the story.
Ten years after the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity uses a similar "real footage" shooting style to investigate a monster not in the woods, but in a young couple's suburban condo. Micah and Katie (the unknown actors' real names) decide to set up a camera and sound equipment to try and make sense of the mysterious occurrences that have been taking place in Katie's life since childhood. She seems to regard these things as more of a curiosity at first, whereas Micah sees the whole thing basically as an excuse to play around with his new camera. The movie is shot with as little artifice as possible and doesn't include opening or closing credits, but rather just a thank you to Micah and Katie's families and the San Diego Police Department. Yeah, that's not ominous....
Now, I mentioned 'Blair Witch' earlier since it's almost impossible to avoid a comparison, but I think I actually preferred Paranormal Activity since the story seems more streamlined (there's no scene here where someone throws a map in the river for no reason) and, whereas the scares in BWP came from never actually seeing the Witch, here you do see things, or perhaps more accurately the results of things. A whole lot is done within that one nicely-framed tableau of Micah and Katie's bedroom. I'm trying to be as oblique as possible since it would be unfair to reveal any of the surprises, but the 'events' of PA follow a gradual crescendo before peaking at the ending. If you didn't like Blair Witch because you didn't think anything happened, well, brother, do things ever happen in Paranormal Activity.
Bottom line is, the movie is creepy as hell. No matter how jaded you are about horror movies, you're going to jump and possibly shriek like a little girl at least once. I, myself, was responsible for at least one 'OH FUCK' that was probably said a few decibels too loud, but in my defense, I was drowned out by several straight-up screams from people around me. (It's the scene at the end of the movie. You'll know it when you see it.) In fact, I considered making this whole review just the running commentary that the teenagers behind me provided for the entire film. It was basically just, "Oh no....oh no....FUCK....what is this thing, bro?.....Ahhhhhh!!!!......Shit, man!.....I can't look anymore, holy fuck......" It was pretty much the same as how I sounded while watching Transformers 2, except in a different context.