Paranormal Activity: Big Scares, Small Budget
Dir. Oren Peli (2007)
After strange events begin occurring in their house, a man and his girlfriend set up a tape recorder to catch the events on tape. It goes poorly.
Paranormal Activity was a fucking event. Made for just $15,000, the movie ended up making almost $200 million, giving it a rate of return of almost 20,000%. That’s nuts no matter how you slice it. What is often left out when discussing the film, however, is just how fucking terrifying it was. Some have said that they have never seen a theater react the way that they reacted to PA, with people screaming out loud or covering their eyes during the most exciting scenes. For me, I originally found the film in its infancy and it blew my goddamn mind. If I am ever to make a movie, I will credit this film the way Kevin Smith credits Slacker, because this is the absolute best way to make a film on a limited budget. Blumhouse’s investment in this movie is what made the entire company, and horror as a genre has reaped all the benefits.
To be fair to all of its many competitors, director Oren Peli lucked out with cast members Katie Featherton and Micah Sloat. Most found footage movies, especially those made with an actual miniscule budget, have actors that can’t act their way out of a paper bag (an expression that I 100% don’t understand, but I digress.) Katie and Micah are excellent playing, erm… Katie and Micah, and they really are the ball that gets the entire film rolling. Katie does a wonderful job of showing how terrified she is, and Micah is perfect as the boyfriend who just refuses to take any of these events seriously until its too late. Granted, his Ouija board mishap is not particularly bright, but I know a ton of douchebags who would 100% do that if put in that situation.
Hey demons! It's me, ya boy
As events escalate, the things that were happening at the beginning of the film become more frequent and violent, and it becomes clear that this presence is no longer fucking around. Katie starts to become more in tune with whatever the “demon” wants, and there are times when it seems to be in complete control of her body. The film does a delightful job of explaining the presence’s attachment to Katie’s person, and tells about how things won’t get any better if they try to leave. That basically eliminates my plan about dealing with paranormal entities, so we come to believe that the couple featured in the film are well and truly fucked from here on out.
Katie, go to fucking bed
And fucked they are! The film has one of the scarier endings in found footage films, and while I won’t give it away here, I am absolutely sure that whoever is reading this has seen the movie before. This is another movie that’s popular to hate in the horror subculture, largely because everyone just has to prove to everyone else how badass they are, and how wussy it is to be afraid of anything you see on a movie. It’s not real after all, bro, what are you so scared of? That’s fucking nonsense. 99% of people who watched this movie were scared out of their goddamned britches, there ain’t no use in pretending otherwise. This movie was damn scary when it first came out, and it holds up surprisingly well on repeat views. Part of the way Peli was able to accomplish this is through the movie’s slower periods: when things don’t happen is almost scarier than when things do happen. To a lot of critics, this makes the film too slowly paced. Those critics are wrong. Peli ratchets up the tension throughout the film’s entire runtime, and the film as a whole is all the better for it.
Who this movie is for: Found footage fans, The general public, People who haven’t seen enough movies to learn that A OUIJA BOARD IS NOT A GODDAMN TOY, YOU IDIOTS!
Bottom line: Incredible film, excellently paced and acted, and at times absolutely terrifying, Paranormal Activity will be a movie your grandkids will watch and be scared by. If you don’t like it, get over yourself and give it another watch. Take your cynical glasses off and see this film for what it actually is: a doctoral thesis on found footage possession movies.