Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 285: Paranormal Activity (2007) - Rank 3.5/5


It should be obvious by many of my reviews that I like low-budget horror. So when I hear that a film that cost $15,000 to make is receiving a national release, I can't help but indulge. The film features a lot of entertaining, yet effective "spookshow" elements to advance the plot and heighten the suspense. The general gist of the story is that a young couple believes that their house is haunted and so they decide that they shall tape every aspect of their days, including their nights in bed, in the hopes of capturing proof that something is amiss. A lot of the tricks that are used, from doors slowly creaking shut to odd bangs on the wall are unnerving. On more than one occasion, Katie (the girl who seems to be the target of the haunting demon's aggressions) arises from bed in the middle of the night and stares at her boyfriend, Micah, for hours on end, practically unmoving. She also seems to go into moments of mild possession where she will carry out acts that she does not remember later and artifacts from her childhood reappear with no logical reason as to how or why.

Unfortunately, writer/director Olen Peri gets very greedy at more than one point in the film. There's one scene featuring a Ouija board that is operated by an unseen hand shortly before it bursts into flame. Another shot features footprints appearing on the floor. Regardless of the "real-life circumstances," this is footage that, if real, would have had the attention of every paranormal investigator in the nation. So why Katie and Micah see these things occur and still take the events in stride is beyond plausibility. Furthermore, there seems to be a legitimate push to explain what is happening to the audience, with even a discovery of a website where another woman went through Katie's experiences, went crazy, blah, blah, blah.

I'm a firm believer of the "less is more" theory, because what is unknown is more frightening than what is defined, for that is the point that your imagination can run amok. It's merely indicative of our culture, for American audiences demand explanations and want to see everything. Speaking from ten years experience at a movie theatre, I can attest that films that feature ambiguous resolutions that are open to interpretation do not appeal to the average filmgoer. So the need to rationalize everything is a chronic problem that ruins too many films with great potential. However, "The Blair Witch Project" is not only reminiscent of "Paranormal Activity" in terms of plot devices and production, but it also features a highly indefinite finale, and it was a high grossing film. So with successful predecessors, it's saddening that "Paranormal Activity" went for the easy out. Kudos to the film though, for making the first night of going to sleep alone after viewing it a little uneasy.

Watch the Trailer

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