A young couple is haunted by a ghost or demon, so the skeptical boyfriend begins to film themselves sleeping every night, with increasingly disturbing results. It has a great concept behind it, because instead of the typical house haunting, the ghost is actually haunting the girl herself, and has followed her around most of her life, so there’s no way for her to escape. The whole movie is told through the boyfriend’s camera, which is rapidly becoming a very familiar tactic at this point, but I still find it hugely effective. This movie reminded me most of Christopher Denham’s Home Movie
, about creepy kids, which overall I liked a little more, but Paranormal Activity is definitely a lot scarier.
And on that point, a lot is being made of how the film doesn’t rely on gore or violence, and instead things are left to your imagination. That’s being used as a selling point, as if that alone makes it superior to those horror films that do rely on such methods. Since I happen to adore gore and violence, I wanted to take a different approach. Horror is, without a doubt, my favorite genre of film. I watch as many horror movies as I can possibly consume, and I love it in all of it’s varied forms. But I don’t find them scary. Like, ever. Apparently, I simply don’t have an imagination, because suspense is frequently lost on me. Whenever something happens offscreen, and I’m left to create what happened inside my own head, it’s not my imagination that runs wild, but frustration. So if I’m watching a monster movie, I want to see the fucking monster. And if I’m watching a slasher, I want extreme fucking close-ups of every last graphic detail of what the killer is inflicting on his victims. I don’t need gore to enjoy horror, there are plenty of other reasons I love the genre, but I definitely consider it an enhancement to any film. I like it when movies can scare me as well, but it just happens too rarely for me to judge a movie if it doesn’t.
Paranormal Activity is one out of a midget’s handful of films that actually fucking terrified me. There are quite a few scenes that completely creeped me the fuck out, and I happily give it due credit for pulling that off. The simplicity of some of the things that occur, often done without any effects, are exactly what makes the film seem so plausible. It’s not hard to picture the exact same events taking place in my own home.
It’s so effectively scary, however, that I was a bit disappointed when it all ends with a cheap jump scare (I hope no one considers that a spoiler, I apologize if you do). Now I love cheap jump scares. LOVE them. Especially at the very end of a movie right before the credits start. But here, it felt too incongruous to the rest of the movie, none of which could be considered “cheap”. Apparently, multiple endings were shot, and there’s even a different ending on the screener copy that’s been floating around the last couple years. I caught one of the advance screenings last month before it’s wide release, so for all I know, I’ve seen a different one as well. And it’s a minor issue, anyway, so please ignore that I even brought it up.
In short, Paranormal Activity is an incredible horror film, in spite of the fact that it does not embrace gore or violence.
To read more of Austin’s writings, almost always about movies, visit his website at www.placentaovaries.net.