Wow, It Sucked Online Too
I love ghost stories. For me, the spooky villain is more terrifying than any masked serial killer on the screen. There’s something about those souls from the other side, never at rest with the world, that gives me the creeps more than any Voorhees or Krueger could ever do.
The ultimate ghost story is POLTERGEIST, followed closely by movies such as THE CHANGELING, THE OTHERS and THE ENTITY. All of these "bump in the night" movies had great effects and even more importantly, characters you can identify with and grow to care for. These are normal, likeable people, your next door neighbor, which makes it easy for an audience to sympathize with them. Spend an hour and a half with the Freelings, and you’ll find yourself rooting for them while they battle forces from the other realm; you can’t help but applaud them when they succeed.
When I saw the previews for PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, I was extremely excited. This looked like a gripping ghost story where a young couple fights dark forces from the other side. While I’m not a fan of first-person movies (BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was a huge disappointment) the previews made it seem like it was well worth watching. And boy, did the previews lie. Instead of being likeable, these characters were more annoying than anything. The few scary scenes in the previews were the ONLY scary scenes in the movie. Endless conversations about nothing and scenes with the main character doing craft projects with her friends made it difficult for me to stay awake. When we do see some excitement, it was short lived with no real result. Footprints in baby powder, a Ouija board catching on fire and our heroine being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night were the highlights of the movie. I am a big believer in old fashioned effects and this movie had them, though they were very few and far between. Too few and far between to make it possible to recommend the film.
Long before this movie hit the theatres and made a hundred million dollars, a different cut was on the internet, with a different ending. One would have been more than enough. Unlike Phil and Mad Man, I only saw the web version. And it was awful. Here’s a *spoiler alert* for those of you who don’t think watching people sleep and bitch at one another doesn’t spoil a film enough. The big finale to this big snoozefest consists of an unknown fate for our hero; there is a scream from another room that we can’t see, and our heroine returning to the bedroom to sit on the floor for hours on end. The police finally show up and gun her down in the hallway… and what the Hell was that? That end was enough for me to wonder what else I could have done for that hour and thirty seven minutes of my life that I will never get back.
The best ghost stories aren’t really about ghosts; they’re about the people under attack. Kind, innocent people who an audience will like. It’s why 30 years after its release, POLTERGEIST is still considered a classic ghost tale. Check back in 30 years, on the internet or anywhere else, and you won’t find anyone saying that about PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.