You Must Be Talking to Me, Since I'm The Only One Here.
Monday, October 4, 2010
One Minutes Review: Paranormal Activity
At this point Paranormal Activity is not so much a film as a cultural artifact. Somehow into the critical mix comes the knowledge that this isn't just a horror film, but an artifact that was made for next to nothing and went on to not only make hundreds of millions but also beat all the big money makers at the box office, while in limited release no less. Forget whether it's good or not, $100,000,000 doesn't lie. Truth is, when we strip it all back down to basics, the movie is only okay.
It begins with a brilliant and unquestionably scary premise. A girl feels as though she is being followed by a paranormal presence, which has been in and out of her life since age 8. Her boyfriend, who she lives with, buys a video camera in order to hopefully capture something on tape so they can get a better understanding of it. In all the extensive research he does on the paranormal he certainly must have come across some numbers to suggest that the likelihood of catching the paranormal on tape exists somewhere in the one percentile, but no matter. They call up a psychic who specializes in ghosts and informs them that he can't help. His speciality is the dead but what he senses is a demon which, he helpfully explains, is not human but rather some evil force that follows people around just to mess with them. And so the nights go. The occurrences start out mild: footsteps in the hallway, doors moving slightly to and fro, lights flicking on and off, Katie (the girl) getting out of bed and standing over Micah (her boyfriend) for hours without explanation.
The psychic gives the couple the name of a demonologist to help them but Micah refuses the aid of the new doctor in one of the film's sly jabs at human nature: Micah's alpha male persona gets the best of him as he casts himself in the role of protector. Ain't no ghost going to mess with his girl. But the hauntings get worse: pictures are broken, loud noises cry out from the dark, footprints appear on the floor and Katie is dragged out of bed by an invisible force.
All of this is fine and dandy and by the time the hour and a half running time grinds to a halt, completely tiring and redundant. The majority of the hauntings occur in dark blue huges as the stationary camera films the couple's dark bedroom, a convenient clock in the bottom corner conveying the time. The setting is so repetitious that it ultimately negates the purpose. As soon as the lights go out and that blue eye-level shot appears we know that, sometime between 2:00am and 4:00am something spooky is going to go down and it's only a matter of time before writer/director Oren Peli stretches his prospects too thin. There's only so many times footsteps, flicked lights and absent-minded wanderings in the dark retain their power before enough is enough, leading up to a "shocking" ending which is, considering, about as predictable as it is unbelievable.
As a cultural artifact, Paranormal Activity is fascinating. As a horror film, it's passable for a little while.