Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I said I was going to post about this movie tomorrow, but I got to writing my thoughts about it and here it is....
I had no idea that a nearby theater was playing PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. With all the hype of this “little film,” I was pretty sure the releases would be relegated to the big city venues. But no!
If you haven’t heard, PA (I’m too lazy to type out the whole title, as usual.) is the second coming of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. At this point, we’re far enough away from that film for people to degrade and make fun of it. But, you all, BLAIR WITCH scared me. Not only did it make me sicker than a dog because of motion sickness, but when I went home that night, I was utterly convinced that the witch was behind my blinds, just waiting for me to open them so I could see the face I didn’t see in the film. I was scared witless, and I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost because of that cackling, stick art-loving wench. (This, coming from the girl who had extremely active nightmares about JAWS, which I’d only heard about from an excitable great aunt until I saw the movie years later and became scared all over again. My conscious life has nothing on my imagination.)
BLAIR WITCH, in my humble opinion, is a really well laid-out jeeper-creeper, much like JAWS, with the monster remaining a mystery throughout a lot of the movie. Bit by bit, we’re fed enough information through legend and visual peeks so that the dread and tension build to the point where we don’t even want to see the creature that’s menacing our character/placeholders in the film. In BLAIR WITCH, we never do witness the monster. Also, the film used a structure that is, by now, a horror chestnut—“this is a true story” found footage. And, maybe, with our society's fascination with reality shows and You Tube, this is what we’re going to get for the next fifty years. This format is perhaps what will speak the most profoundly to us.
You might’ve heard that PA is the scariest thing that’s come along in ages. Indeed, I did get many a goosebump. In fact, I’d say that I spent most of the film going from hands in front of my face to hands balled under my chin to hands folded expectantly in my lap in the anticipation of having to put them back up in front of my face. The first half hour or so is pretty sedate: it dwells in the ordinary world of a couple who suspects that there could be a ghost haunting their house, so the guy buys a camera to record the paranormal activity at night in their bedroom. From the half-hour mark on, the build-up to what exactly is haunting the couple is what makes this movie worth a ticket. It definitely has that all-important dread factor. But what REALLY makes this movie work?
It plays on our fears that when we hear things go bump in the night, there’s a reason. It’s not just your house settling. It’s not just a branch rubbing up against the window. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie use footsteps in a way that makes you forget to take another breath.
What’s kind of hilarious is that this cheap movie has much more impact than most of the $100 million plus crud that was out this summer. It’s a lesson in how you can’t dig deeply into your audience by manipulating the screen with CGI impressions. And that’s another reason PA was successful for me: I was riveted to the dramatic progression. I cared about what was happening to the characters, especially the heroine, who’s the focal point of the story. The only drawback was the ending, but that’s a small detail when I spent the first hour and half strung so tightly that I had to hide my dang face.
One last thing? I have a refrigerator that makes sounds, so I’m kind of afraid to go to sleep now.
Damn this movie.