Paranormal Activity

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"I've had enough of this shit "

Dec 8th, 2010

It's been a while since I've had the time to write any movie reviews. My computer broke down and I lost six separate reviews that were stored on my hard drive. Trying to find the will to rewrite the reviews I experienced true horror at my work place (I'm a Projectionist). No, I'm not talking about Paranormal Activity, but the 6th annual Kurdish film festival. I don't know if I'll ever sleep again.

I was prepared to hate this movie – not because it seemed like a rip off of the Blair Witch Project (which is actually a rip off of The Last Broadcast) but because it was the film that toppled the Saw franchise. Saw VI was the best sequel since the first and yet it had the worst sales of them all due to this little word of mouth flick.

Trying the same tactics of Blair Witch this was sold on the events being real and that the people were not actors. Having the "actors" use their real names is meant to confirm this but I don't see how. I knew they used their real names from websites and reading multiple reviews, but nowhere in the film is this confirmed, in fact there are no credits (this pissed me off – see later) so how are we supposed to know who they are? They're no name actors, Doy.

>Blair Witch came out ten years ago (yes you really are that old) and I knew the whole 'this is real' shtick would fall flat, so I personally had no desire to sit down and watch more shaky cam. That was until I experienced the hype first hand. Reading stories from American websites that this is the scariest movie of all time is all well and good but hearing it from your friends and colleagues is a different matter.

One girl I work with told me how she stayed up all night fearing every noise, especially as it was a true story. After I picked my jaw from the floor (I couldn't believe that shit had worked a second time round) I decided to see the flick for myself – hey, I can watch it for free.

First up let's get to the story, stuff happens in a couple's house which may or may not be paranormal activity. A little light on plot but I never expected anything more, apparently realism means dull and simple in Hollywood.

The couple are named Micah and Katie and amazingly are truly naturalistic and likeable. I know I keep referencing the Blair Witch Project but it's hard not to as the films are so similar in style, but the characters in that film irritated me. I didn't like their personalities so the "terror" (oh no! there are sticks outside my tent!) didn't move me but here I liked Katie and Micah so I enjoyed this a lot more.

I don't mind the cheap camera work as long as I have something engaging to watch, Blair Witch managed to give me a headache as all the cameras were handheld and swung around to make things scary (yawn). Paranormal has a different tactic, sure there are a few handheld sections but they have purpose, the majority of the time the camera remains static, allowing us to witness what happens with ease rather than straining our eyes.

One thing was impressive and that was the special effects, while not quite matrix standard they are extremely good for a film shot on a budget of $15000. The whole time I was racking my brain trying to figure out how they did it more so than any magicians of late (Derren Brown you bore me).

So on to the big question, was it scary? Well no, a lot of shit went down that had me scratching my head, why were people so terrified? I assume most of the fear comes from the anticipation that something is going to happen. The film is split into two separate areas, the first is the documentary part that shows the day to day life of Katie and Micah and how they react to the strange nocturnal activities (it's not that type of movie… so don't get your hopes up). The second part is where the fear is meant to come; the camera is placed in a static position facing the couple's bed and films all activity during the night. These sections are labelled with titles such as night 1 October 1st.

I don't want to ruin the movie as many have found these sections truly terrifying and many in the screen I was in were shifting about and squealing which actually raised my enjoyment. The thing is nothing really happens; the first night had the sound of footsteps on the stairs. Ok, so as the movie continues things get a little more extreme (mainly loud noises) but the film had me hooked for one reason that was shattered about halfway through.

I don't really find horror movies scary anymore but I can still enjoy the atmosphere they create. If the story and events play out well I'm personally happy with or without scares. The audience have already been given the impression that the couple are dead. The film starts with a title card stating that Paramount would like to thank Katie and Micah's families as well as the Police Department for the footage. The whole film is built on anticipation and the moment these two finally kick the bucket.

The one thing I liked about Blair Witch was the fact you never saw who or what was causing the events to unfold. Throughout this film things are left open. Are there really ghosts? Or is there something more sinister going on? Are there people from outside terrifying the couple? Have they found a way inside the house without setting off the alarms and avoiding the one camera used by the couple? Or is one of the couple responsible? Are they trying to scare the shit out of the other? Unfortunately we get a definitive answer too soon that spoiled the film for me. Skip the next paragraph if you don't want to be spoiled.

**SPOILERS BEGIN** When the couple go out on a date the camera is left on facing an Ouija board which not only moves on it's own but sets fire to the board, confirming the existence of a ghost in this film's universe. **SPOILERS END**

The way the film ended pissed me off as it was terrible. I won't post it here but it made things clear that this was just a film and in no way based on reality. After this I was astonished that there were no credits, once you get to the goofy ending there's no need to play this off as real. I later found out that there are three different endings to the film, the other two are more in keeping with the film's tone but this ending does set up the possibility of a sequel (announced after the film made $100 million), except it doesn't need a sequel.

This is one of those films that truly needs to be experienced for yourself, I thought it was OK but many loved this. On the other side many hate this and feel it was a waste of money. At this point I'm going to make an observation that might seem a little sexist but it's what I've witnessed from the people leaving the screens on multiple viewings. In general, females seem to find the film more scary and worthwhile, whereas the men in the audience walk out complaining about wasting money.

This is not a film I have a desire to watch again but I didn't hate it. The sequel's already planned and I'll give that a chance as this was far better than I expected. For those that hated Blair Witch Project avoid this as it's quite similar. For those that really want to be scared give the Kurdish film festival a chance (no really, don't, it sucks). 5/10

The most profitable film of all time beating out Blair Witch Project
Made in 2007 it's had to wait two years for a full theatrical release
Filming was completed in 10 days

Director: Oren Peli
Screenplay: Oren Peli
Release: 2009
Rating: 15
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Ashley Palmer

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