Thursday, October 22, 2009

paranormal activity - did it live up to the hype?

I don’t believe in ghosts and I don’t believe in demons, but I understand why they’re considered frightening. There’s one thing that makes ghost stories that much more frightening than say slasher films or gore films. Where the slasher and gore films may be slightly more set in some sort of reality, ghost films aren’t. you can’t see the enemy pursuing, you never know when it’s going to strike, you’re filled with a constant knot of dread in your stomach and most importantly, you can’t fight back.

Paranormal activity manages to do one thing that American horror films have notoriously lacked, it fills you with a sense of unease, from the moment the movie begins you’ll have a knot in your stomach wondering when something is going to happen. When something does happen, you’ll feel the payoff for the wait is worth it. The film takes its premise very seriously; there are no opening credits, just a disclaimer stating that it’s a video documentation of what happened to this couple, not even a title screen, there’s also no closing credits which leaves you a little disconcerted when the movie ends. There’s a term I coined to describe this kind of movie, which until today I had used exclusively for a type of Japanese film. I call them “creep films”, because they creep you out. The Japanese usually do this by tossing startling imagery at you in the form of small boy ghosts and women covered in blood climbing through you TV to murder you. There’s nothing like this in paranormal activity, but the term still applies, as the movie is a ghost story, or more aptly a demon story. The film maintains this unease from start to finish, building to a crescendo in the climax in the final minutes of the film.

I’ll get to the thing everyone wants to know, will this movie scare you? Probably not, but depends on how easily frightened you are. There are some very disturbing images in the film and a few things that may even haunt you for a couple days after seeing the film. Overall, however, I would say the movie is more geared towards people who like to feel creeped out and have a sense that something really bad is about to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. Dread permeates the film and it’s an uncomfortable ride witnessing what happens to poor Micah and Katie. The film strikes me as the type of thing that will end up being very polarizing, there are going to be the people who are going to say it wasn’t scary and therefore not worth wasting your time on, but I will argue this point. No the movie is not scary in the traditional sense, but it is frightening if you let yourself get absorbed into the film and with everything that the characters are going through. If you don’t think you can do that, don’t bother seeing the film. 4 out of 5 stars

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