October 3, 2013

[Movie Review] Paranormal Activity




Paranormal Activity is the story of a young couple whose relationship falls apart when Micah, Katie's not-quite-fiance, reveals that he is physically incapable of ceasing to act like a douchebag.

Oh, and there's a demon in the house. That's relevant, too.

Now, assuming you are an English speaking individual with access to a television or Internet-enabled computer (and if you aren't, then how the heck are you reading this?), you have almost certainly heard of Paranormal Activity and its slew of sequels. They're the first-person POV paranormal horror movies that the public has demanded to see every October for the last four years. The first movie was, as of October 2009, the most profitable movie ever (as long as we're just talking about how much it cost to make, not publicize).

It's also widely hated and mocked, especially after it revitalized the Found Footage genre.

I've found that Paranormal Activity is one of those extremely divisive movies; viewers tend to fall into two camps. They either love it and found it absolutely terrifying... or they were bored and hate it (and especially the hype). There's very little middle ground.

Me, I don't quite love it. I wasn't frightened by it. But I did enjoy watching it, and I've watched the sequels every year. (I was very annoyed to learn that 5 was pushed back to 2014.) My mom, on the other hand? She hates it.

Once you've seen the movie, the reason for the divide should be obvious. Perhaps this Honest Trailer says it best:



Before you press play, please note that this video contains potential spoilers.

As the Epic Movie Voice guy says, a lot of this movie is just watching Micah and Katie sleep, since they leave the camera running at night in hopes of catching the demon on film. To make matters worse for some viewers, the film takes a lot of time building up to the "actually scary" stuff... and the demon itself is invisible. For fans of modern horror films like Saw, Final Destination, The Ring, and Cloverfield, perhaps Paranormal Activity just isn't hitting the right buttons with its slowly rising tension and lack of a visible villain.

But for me, my biggest complaint about Paranormal Activity is Micah (as I'm sure you noticed up above). This dude is perhaps the single most obnoxious horror movie protagonist I've had the misfortune of watching. When a psychic advises them to call a demonologist to help them, Micah convinces Katie to disregard the advise. When Katie tells Micah how scared she is of making the demon angry, Micah seems to ramp up his efforts to antagonize it. When Katie, the psychic, and a family friend tell Micah not to bring a Ouija board into the house, he breaks his promise and borrows one from a friend. When Katie is terrified and fed up with Micah's behavior, he responds by telling her to "pop a pill" and goes on a rant about how no demon is going to "come into [his] house and mess with [his] girlfriend". Because somehow a demon stalking Katie is about him.

In other words, I hate Micah. He was infuriating to the point that I was rooting for the demon to kill his ass, and from what I've been told by others who saw the movie, I definitely wasn't the only one.

But in spite of Micah, I enjoyed the movie. I like Katie. She's a well-rounded character, and she's beautiful without conforming to Hollywood's ideal body image. I like the villain, especially after it becomes clear that most of what it does is simply to fuck with them. And I like the way the movie plays with tension to create fear.

If you don't think you'll mind the slow buildup, the invisible antagonist, and the "found footage" style, I definitely recommend giving Paranormal Activity a try.

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