Sunday, July 24, 2016

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #37: Paranormal Activity (2007)

Running Time: 86 minutes
Directed By: Oren Peli
Written By: Oren Peli
Main Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat
Click here to view the trailer

Just a repost again...


I LOVE found footage films, plain & simple. If I had to pick one guilty pleasure genre, that would have to be the one. I guess I can admit that they're really not usually films of high quality, but then again, I'm sort of blinded to their badness usually, as I just can't get enough of them. Let's delve into the plot of what is probably the second most famous found footage films of them all (behind "Blair Witch") - Paranormal Activity.

Your leads are Katie (Featherston) and Micah (Sloat), a boyfriend & girlfriend, who have recently moved into together and reside in San Diego, CA. When strange, yet minor, things begin happening in the house, it is Micah's idea to get a video camera and set it up in the bedroom, to try and capture some of the noises that their house has been making. We're talking very minor things at this point - creaky doors, falling picture frames, etc. The film really gets underway by showing us the first night's videotape - where more minor things happen. Tapping noises coming from the hallway, outside the couple's bedroom, added with more creaky door. Everything is kept pretty light at this point, Micah always joking about the phenomena and Katie mostly just annoyed at this point, rather than frightened. The couple later call in a medium to try and expel whatever ghosts may be hiding in the home and following the medium's visit, it is his professional opinion that not a ghost, but rather a demon is terrorizing the young couple and that this is not his area of expertise. He suggests a colleague and makes an alarmingly quick exit, wanting nothing to do with getting on a demon's bad side. The camera continues to get set up and strange noises get louder, doors do more than creak - they visibly move on their own, without being touched by human hands and often the couple wake in fright, in the wee hours of the night. We continue to go back and forth between the voyeuristic videos of the nighttime and the effects that the goings on have on the couple in the light of day. The relationship becomes more and more strained, as Micah argues to protect his home by his own set of rules, while Katie wants nothing more than to expel the demon, without upsetting it.


I really think that these found footage films appeal to my interest in voyeurism. I promise I'm not a peeping tom, but when it comes to cinema, I definitely have some sort of off fascination with voyeuristic pictures. There's something about seeing something that we're not supposed to be seeing that is appealing to me. It's almost taboo, I suppose. The public was never meant to see the events that took place on Micah's video camera, but within the confines of the film - one thing lead to another and the tapes were made public. I also tend to love compelling films that employ non-actors. I've always been a big fan of the film Open Water, a movie that uses two primary actors to tell a very minimalist story. Paranormal Activity reminded me of Open Water - in that it took a young couple and plunged them into peril. The couple also just looked and sounded like a real couple. They had a typical home, typical arguments - they just felt very real to me. And so, when the paranormal begins to take place, it will hit close to home with anyone who's ever had a live in mate, I think.

I guess, if I had to nitpick about anything, I'd have toned down the ending a bit - or maybe even have come up with something entirely different. My whole theory behind what makes The Blair Witch Project so good, was that nothing scary is ever SHOWN. Anything scary that comes out of Blair Witch, is completely manifested in our own imaginations, the idea of being alone in the woods at night, the idea of strange noises that can't be identified, the idea of strange phenomena that can't be recognized. However, there's not a ghoul or spook anywhere near that film - hence the praise. However, in Paranormal Activity, it's sort of the opposite. The film is more blatant in it's intentions to scare us and makes us use our imaginations less. We see physical sings that SOMETHING is clearly amiss and in the end, when Katie is dragged kicking & screaming through her own house, imagination becomes null & void. The whole possession thing is probably a bit too much too, but then again, I guess that was always the end game. Either they expelled the demon or it won and I guess the only way an invisible entity finally wins, is by taking over the body that it's been terrorizing. I would have liked for everything to be a bit more subtle. Perhaps even end with the Katie being dragged down the hallway, followed by her screaming & crying and calling for Micah and just end like that. I think that would, at least, promote a little bit of imaginary use. In voyeurism (which is exactly what found footage is), it is imperative that we ask questions. I've used the example before of looking in a stranger's window. If I were to go outside right now, find the first lit up house and put my nose to their windows, surely I'd have a hundred questions. Keep us asking questions, keep everything very mysterious. People who are supposed to be acting natural, in their own homes, shouldn't have to constantly be explaining their motives.

How much of a dick was Micah though, am I right?! If I'm Katie's boyfriend, I'm being less of an asshole and I'm dialing up the demonologist as soon as the medium recommends him. I'm not messing around with baby powder, videotapes or Ouija boards, I'm just chilling and letting the one who's obviously been dealing with this kinda' stuff since she was a little kid (Katie) tell me how it's gonna' be. The character frustrated me very badly, at times, which is a compliment to the film.

RATING: 8/10  During our horror weekend, we also watched three of the five sequels. The second one is almost as good, IMO, but not as good and they get progressively worse, with Paranormal Activity 4 falling around the '4.5/10' range.

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