Monday, October 26, 2009

Reel Low: No, it really happened!

I went to see "Paranormal Activity" on Sunday and have to say after reading the positive reviews about this movie I had to wonder if I missed something. The film is shot cinema verite style ala "The Blair Witch Project" with boyfriend Micah behind the camera documenting the haunting of his girlfriend Katie. As the movie progresses, it is revealed that it's a demon that's been attched to Katie since she was 8 and for some inexplicable reason, it's decided to start acting up again. Doors are slammed, shadows move, and thudding abounds to startle and scare the audience all leading up to a fairly standard halloween campfire story ending that makes the movie unsettling more in the "Hookhand" story way and less in "The Exorcist" way.

While I don't mind documentary style in the camera work, "Paranormal Activity" doesn't apply this to the roles. Everyone comes off as standard horror movie stereotypes. Katie is the cute, scared girl who listens to her boyfriend even though she knows better. Micah comes off as the boyfriend who doesn't take things seriously, and when things finally get serious he won't be emasculated by the supernatural events swirling around him, all because she's his girlfriend. The psychic is a character provided to give and to be a reason for exposition. What equipment did the boyfriend buy and why? Well, let him explain it to the psychic. What exactly are they dealing with? The psychic will tell us.

This movie follows more in the way of "Cloverfield" than "Blair Witch" except that with the former there was no pretense that it was a document of an actual event. Moments that really expose the horror movie construct occur when the boyfriend mentions getting a Ouija board, which the girlfriend and the psychic tell him he shouldn't do, and then goes out and gets one like the character that he is. Also, when said Ouija board's cursor is caught on camera moving on its own eventually setting the board on fire, the boyfriend doesn't see this as a sign to get real help but as a puzzle to figure out. The entity also comes off as more of an obsessive boyfriend that wants to hook up with Katie than a terrible force of unknown reasoning messing about with the physical world to torment the mortals that live in it.

Just remember, Katie is still at large! DUN DUN DUN

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