Following is my review of:
Da Webster Reviews Paranormal Activity.
(note from Audley I saw dis too buts Webster demanded he review it insteads.)
Howdy, So yes, thanks Audley for allowing me to review something on the website I pay for, that's so magnanimous of you.
Let's get to it.
I was looking forward to Paranormal Activity, I really was, not much in the world of Horror movies actually frightens me, sure I occassionally jump when the movie attempts to make you jump, not often but it does happen, goreporn I find almost as tiresome as the penetration angst fantasies of the Slasher flicks, but for all that being said I love horror movies, especially supernatural horror and zombie movies, but for differing complex reasons. What I looked forward to in Paranormal Activity was that it's one of the increasing genre of "found footage" horror movies, made famous by the much maligned but groundbreaking "The Blair Witch Project". (I don't want comments about Cannibal Holocaust or The Last Broadcast, they are entirely different.)
For what it was, The Blair Witch Project (TBWP) was an exceptional experiment almost in the Dogme mould. It came out at a time before youtube and before our minds were used to seeing "footage" as fiction. I saw it before the hype and found it did something to me that no other movie had before. By pressing the buttons of my imagination it invoked primal instinctual fears, lost in the woods at night and being fucked with by a seemingly supernatural predator. I recall leaving that cinema and looking at the ashen grim faces of the audience, some of whom I imagine would be the first to berate it, possibly in an attempt to placate their egos or regain their composure after being actually frightened out their wits by nothing. Sure some people didn't get frightened by it, but what I'm saying is that in my experience the actual fear in that cinema was tangible.
Last year saw both the wonderfully grim REC and big budget roller coaster of Cloverfield, but the whole "found footage" thing was a bit of a cliché which culminated in "Diary of the Dead" which was less than impressive.
Luckily Paranormal Activity was made back in 2007 and had been doing the rounds at festivals without finding a distrubtor. People kept telling me they saw it and were quite shook up by it, compared it to TBWP and said it was worse (not in a bad way, in a frightening way). I was excited by this and waited patiently for it to get released, but even after Spielberg picked it up, it looked like it wasn't going to get a major release. It finally has now. However in saying that I should point out that the version I just watched was the original (the end has been re-edited) given to me on DVD by a dark Chthonic entity with pigtails.
In a way Paranormal Activity it is like TBWP in so far is it is short on budget, puports to be found footage and the protagonists are suffering beyond all endurance at the hands of a seemingly invisible otherworldly antagonist. However whereas TBWP's terror comes from the idea of being lost and toyed with. Paranormal Activity's thing is that it dredges up another deep primal fear, the intruder in our home.
So, the plot is this. There is a young couple. Katie, who has been subject to weird poltergeist phenomena most of her life and her boyfriend Micah, who is cynical but buys a camera in order to record the nocturnal goings on in their home. Soon we are witness to their lives and the events as they unfold. Things here do go bump in the night. From doors swinging open and shut to ghostly thumps and footfalls ascending stairs the whole paranormal bit. Katie tries her best to cope with this, creepy as it is, but Micah, well Micah is a fucking idiot and not only goads the spirit haunting their home but actually even calls it out. He mocks Katie's attempt to get outside help from a psychic who claims that it is not a ghost, but a demons. Even though it is clear he is out of his depth with his alpha male tactics, Micah refuses to admit defeat and he provokes it more and despite warnings not to attempt to communicate with it, attempts to communicate with it. This leads him to get a ouija board even though again he has been advised this is intensely stupid. From thereon in things get worse, much much worse. The presence becomes more violent almost immediately. They leave the house and instantly a wind blows through it, the planchette of the board starts moving until it ignites the board. Katie is not unsurprisingly freaked and angry but Micah is not done and keeps up his investigation, his camera filming the moving planchette leads him to believe the message is "Goodbye Dianne". A power struggle begins between the demon and Micah, it's blatantly one sided and it isn't very long before the two of them are exhausted, harrassed and at their wits end. Micah and Katie call the psychic again, but he's freaked out upon entering the house and leaves, leaving them alone to face the entity. Micah discovers a website claiming to be that of a girl named Dianne who in the 60's was possessed by a demon and was torn herself apart during an exorcism. Another night passes in which Katie is physically dragged by the leg out of the room. In the morning both have had enough decide to leave the house.
The demon however has one last trick up his sleeve. Which depending on the version you see, may be different.
END OF SPOILERS.
So... was it any good?
I have to say yes. I know that many people won't enjoy or be frightened by this movie and there are others who will badly over-compensate being frightened by it (Like Micah) by telling everyone how "lame" it is in an attempt to divert their own lameness away from their egos, but frankly I was SHIT SCARED and I don't mind admitting it. Mind you I had the perfect setting. In the dark, on my own, at 3a.m. Several times I had to pause it, it was getting too much, at one particularly heavy point I managed to unpause it and pause it again within 12 seconds. For me this was unexpected, nor was it the funny "ooh I'm startled hahah" of most horror. My spine actually tingled, hair stood up on the back of my neck, I even had sweaty palms and a dry mouth. I genuinely don't think any movie has frightened me as much. It was actually hard to take.
No wonder people were leaving test showings.
So in short. Paranormal Activity is everything I want from a horror movie. It draws you in to seemingly a real situation where you observe as they do rather than from behind the protection of the fourth wall you're there as a witness, it doesn't rely on cheap thrills or maxed out cgi monsters or bathtubs of offal being flung about. It has no music to burst the suspension of disbelief. It's characters are not merely cyphers but people who are enduring something beyond endurance. It is tight, claustrophobic and above all it allows your imagination to run riot.
To me this is what the genre needs. Frightening movies, movies that are not "fun" scary or blood drenched grotesques but ones that leave you reeling, that frighten you in a deep and hardwired way. It's only a pity that these movies have to be hyped to make it. If there are any fiends out there that want to fund me, I'd love to do and am capable of doing something similar, scarier and like Welles "War of the Worlds" and "GhostWatch" only on our latest medium the net. Not so much an ARG more an ARRRRGHH!.
Paranormal Activity. 9 out of 10.
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