Saturday, October 10, 2009

Paranormal Activity (2009)

Fear 5/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 5/5

Lots to do about a whole lot with this flick, its been making the festival rounds and playing in limited release across the country. With interesting viral marketing to boot, this film had a tall order to fill with my (skeptical) expectations shooting through the roof. Not too mention, it exponentially built upon learning that 5,000 people lined up for the premiere in L.A. Un-freaking-real. So did it deliver? Oh yeah, but not in the way that I expected.

The film promptly starts with a young couple that has been experiencing odd disturbances in their home. The boyfriend buys camera equipment in an attempt to capture all the goings on that occur when they sleep at night. They initally invite a psychic in, he tells them something surely funky is happening and centered on the girl specifically (clue #1 that the boyfriend should high tail it out of dodge). He basically trims it down to two possible scenarios: either a genuine haunting is taking place or a demonic entity is gearing up. Great, what's the good news doc? Actually, there is none.

The film continues on day after day, night after night, with the attacks and crazy oompa loompa vibes permeating throughout. See, not only do strange occurances take place at night, but so too are their days filled with unexplainable noises that go bump in the nigh--err, I mean day.

After one particular occurance, the boyfriend replays the tape and discovers that his girlfriend was standing at attention, looking over him while he slept for a period of about 2-3 hours. Clue #2 that he should get he fuck out of dodge.

We come to find out that the woman has been plagued by strange happenings ever since she was a child, the attacks and visits by a strange entity happening every few years or so. Her house even burned down when she was a kiddo and yet she was resigned to believe that it had anything to do with the occurances. Clue #3, dude. You had your chance now you gotta live with it.

As the film progresses, the camera continues to role as it captures all the action, with the attacks growing more and more violent (the particulars of which I won't spoil). All of this leading up to the grand finale, a scene in which is the single greatest payoff of any horror movie I've seen in the last 20 years. No joke. I'm sitting here in my underwear, typing this review at 2 a.m., drinking a beer to calm my nerves. It freaked me the fuck out.

Paranormal Activity is fun, edge of your seat goodness with a come out of nowhere payoff. You have to see this one in theaters. Invariably it will (and has) been compared to Blair Witch. But that's not fair. It has its own unique spine tingling magic going on.

Cortez The Killer

* * *

Fear 3/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 3/5

Like Cortez, I had low expectations around this. I had seen the marketing, I had seen the footage of audiences losing their shit and I simply wasn't impressed. The film looked like a cheaper version (read: rip-off) of The Blair Witch Project. At best I considered it a rental and only went to see this in the theater because of Cortez's review.

Well, I too was won over by this "little film that could". Filmed for around $15K (supposedly, though I buy it given that it's four actors, a home video camera and some simple Mac special effects), Paranormal Activity is remarkably effective.

My gauge for this was my wife. See, she grew up in a series of haunted houses and has seen countless things that would fall under the category of "paranormal". I am a skeptic to the nth degree, but have no reason to doubt anything she says. She's not the kind of person that would make these things up. She has no reason to and if you knew her you'd feel the same way.

When we went on our honeymoon to Scotland and Ireland, we deliberatly went on every tour of haunted locations that we could find. Fun story - as we're walking through Greyfriar's Kirkyard in Edinburgh around midnight or so, we kind of fell off the back of the tour and wound up being separated by around 50 feet from the rest of the tour. My wife stops and grabs my hand. "What's up?" I ask to which she replies "there's a woman in white walking around by those gravestones over there." I saw nothing , but she was chilled and affected by it. We quickly caught up with the group in time to catch the tour guide explaining to the group that many people have reported seeing a woman in white floating around the graveyard. Now I was chilled and affected.

This is par for the course for my wife. So a good benchmark for this film, I felt, was how scared she got. . . which turned out to be quite a bit. It's a scary movie for sure without ever stooping to dumb and cheap scares or jolts that have no real payoff (jumping cats for example). And while I wasn't all that impressed with the ending (I actually saw it coming from about 20 minutes into the movie) I still walked out satisified and really creeped out. I won't say that I had nightmares or anything, but I'll say that when I heard some bumps in the dark later that night, I wasn't so quick to write them off as my neighbor or a creaky house.

Well done and recommended - Complaint Dept


B-Movie Becky said...

Woohoo! Loved it! Very creepy in all the best ways.

Cortez The Killer said...

Agreed. And the scenes were so brilliantly executed. For a low budget film, it did it better than half the films out there with a bigger budget.

Great blog, BTW.

Matt-suzaka said...

I still am so thrilled that it is getting a wide release! Where I lived a few months ago, people are already seeing it, but where I live now, there was no way in hell. Or so I thought! I hope it shows up in the theater near me on the 16th!

the jaded viewer said...

We horror bloggers seem to be all in agreement about PA. I agree with everything you wrote.

Cortez The Killer said...

Cue the marching band and parade, this is a historic day on Planet of Terror. Complaint Dept. AND Cortez the Killer agree on a film? When will you finally accept the fact that Pantera is an awesome band?

Complaint Dept said...


Anonymous said...

I almost didn't watch this because it is always compared to Blair Witch.
This is 10 times better!
I personally preferred the ending on the dvd better because it didn't go for the stupid in your face scare , it stayed with the creepy instead
By the way , love your site