Paranormal Activity: So Not Scary

paranormal activity posterWhenever one of those movies hits theaters that’s being touted as ‘The Little Picture That Could’ and inundates the ads with images of the viewing public going ape shit in their seats, it’s always best to step back, snatch that proverbial grain of salt, and just friggin chill. Let’s think back for a second to The Blair Witch Project from 1999. For most folks living in and around the Burkittsville area of Maryland, it was almost as if the collective masses behind the flick put finger to lips and told everyone to keep it on the down low. How do I know this? Well, besides the obvious 10-years-later freedom of information. I found out about the secretive goings on just after seeing the movie from my cousins who are from the Columbia, MD area, telling me the whole deal being nothing more than a publicity build up for the film. At first I was speculative, but the more they told, the more it sounded plausible. Okay, so I was duped and yes, I was slightly freaked out by the behind-the-shaky camera work. Fine. Well now we come to Paranormal Activity, the flick that owes more than just its underground-come-blockbuster status to Blair Witch.

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Grossing roughly $8 Million after its eventual wide release, P.A. has become one of those movies you just want to cheer for basically because it shows that even the most minimalistic flicks can mutate into critical masterpieces just by word of mouth. But is it really that good? Let’s break it down a little and we’ll figure it out.

Performance Factor:

The entirety of the movie focuses on two people living together in a awfully nice house for a day trader and a professional student. Katie and Micah have been together for three years and are working toward getting married. It’s these little nuggets of info we slowly glean from conversations the two have either with friends or a Parapsychologist who drops by (exceedingly unnecessarily, I might add). The real issue is with Katie. You see, she’s got a problem with a nasty ‘poltergeist’ who wants nothing more than to ruin her life. Just so long as it’s after midnight and in her bedroom. Maybe it’s the ghost of Long Dong Silver? Anyway, Micah buys a really nice and obviously expensive camera and proceeds to spend much of the rest of the movie either behind it or near it, which is fine, since he is, unfortunately a colossal tool. Katie, on the other hand, is not only very photogenic (see: pretty hot), but is definitely the more acting-savvy of the two. This is, after all, Micah’s first film, but not Katie’s. So, all in all, the acting is just about a genuine as you’d expect from a duo trying to ‘keep it real’ as it were and they did remind me, in a lot of ways, of how my wife and I would react were we to find ourselves in a similar paranormal shit storm.

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Gaping Plot Holes (Potential Spoilers Ahead):

Micah is also, regrettably, an idiot. I completely understand and sympathize with his desire to capture whatever it is that’s messing with his woman on camera. Shit, I’d do the same damn thing. But there are some real problems with many things that happen in this movie being overlooked just to force forward the thin enough plot. At one point, Micah gets a hold on an Ouija Board, much to the behest of Katie, and sets it out on the coffee table with the camera facing him and the game. Katie and Micah argue for a second and leave the house where we, the viewers get to watch as the board’s cursor glides along the surface spelling out something. Yes, spooky, everybody run. Ah, but the big issue is that on its return to the ‘home’ spot on the board, it bursts into flame! Oh shit! Yeah, there’s your plausibility. Anyway, as the camera advances time through the evening (something it does a lot), the couple return home and head off throughout the house not one even mentioning the SMELL OF FUCKING SMOKE! Sure, the board didn’t burn up or catch anything else on fire, but the simple fact that it was some kind of lacquered wood, you would definitely smell something after a fire’s sizzled away on it! Moreover, the two of them sleep in the same bed, as we all know from the previews, with Micah on the ‘safer’ inside and Katie facing the door. I’m sorry, but once one little bizarre ocurrence went down, I’d be sleeping on the opposite side as, I’m sure, would most of the rest of you. Yeah, so, not exactly super realistic.

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Is It Scary?:

I guess this one really depends on who you are. I am a horror movie freak and have, more than likely, seen just about every conceivable scare tactic the genre has to offer. So, for me, no, this movie was not scary. That being said, I will admit to more than one occasion where I did find specific scenes freaky. The position of the camera in he bedroom makes the viewer have to do one of two things at the same time: look down the hall into the doorway, or watch what’s happening within the room itself. I did find myself staring down the hall because, in my assumption, that’s where the shit was going to go down. And I was was right. SPOILERS AHOY: At one point, after Micah sprinkles powder on the floor in three key locations (end of hall, hallway bathroom, and outer bedroom) you really want to watch the hallway because you believe you’ll see the entity meander through the dirtied path. It doesn’t play out that way at all, so this becomes a point where you really need to keep your eye on the bedroom where Katie shoots up in bed and notices the powdery prints come into the room, hang out near the bed, but never leave. Oh, and they absolutely are NOT human. But beyond all of this, there is just far too much analysis of scenes we’ve just seen for the benefit of Katie and Micah to show their disbelief and fear. It just seems so redundant and they could have easily replaced these instances with additional ‘fear’. It’s got those ‘forced’ freaky moments, but, all in all, t’s never actually scary.

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What’s Up With The Three Different Endings? (Spoilers Galore):

From what I understand there are three completed endings, however, according to an interview done on Attack of the Show, Katie says that many were actually filmed and hinted at the possibility of them all being included in a future DVD release. Well, let me tell you that it’s pretty easy to get a hold of at least the three that the Wiki speaks of. The first one I saw shows the final recorded evening where Katie, now at her wit’s end though under the false assumption that everything is finally going to be okay, climb from bed, stand in one spot staring at Micah for several hours, head downstairs, shriek like a damn banshee, wake Micah who flies down the steps (for once WITHOUT the camera. Hmm…), presumably stab and kill him, stomp back to her bed, sit in front of it mesmerized, and finally, after a full day, get reached by the cops eventually culminating in her death by gun shot as she snaps out of her daze, lurching at the police with a bloody knife and nightshirt. Yeah, that one was slightly anticlimactic and a huge downer. So, evidently in steps Steven Spielberg and offers an idea for a far more ridiculous and ‘Hollywood Horror’ ending that is being seen in the theaters. The same things occur up to the point where Micah runs down stairs. Katie screams, stomps back up, and flings Micah into the camera where she proceeds to manically grin into the lens, and distort her face into a horrid, toothy maw, and go after Micah. Roll credits. Yeah, I’m not buying that one either. Just too damn stupid. So what’s the other? Well, as I saw, Katie heads back upstairs with bloodied knife, stops at the side of her bed, and spookily slits her own throat. See, this one I like. It really leaves it open as to who actually survives. So, hopefully, we’ll get a whole slew of endings for home release because I’d love t be able to choose which fits better with the silly ass film.

Should You See it?

Sure! But go with someone who is easily frightened, like preferably someone from the opposite sex (assuming you’re straight), because then the enjoyment factor would likely be that much more intense. Maybe go into a full theater and feed off the reactions of everyone else. But, if you are a horror movie lover, it’s just not going to do it for you. Well, at least it didn’t for me. I could be wrong.

The Attack of the Show Interview in Horrible Quality/Best I Could Find Goodness