The Mad Man Dan Price Perspective,
A Hairy Hermit from the Hills:
Let’s face it… you know what movie I’m talking about here. If you haven’t the slightest clue what PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is then chances are you’re a hairy hermit from the hills, or just really slow on the up-chuck. In any case, the much debated PARANORMAL ACTIVITY has received a gargantuan amount of attention the like of which – ironically – not seen since the like filmed THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Since it debuted at festivals it’s generated word-of-mouth hype, but it wasn’t until a good year or so later when none other than Stephen Spielberg got his hands on a copy that the studios began hum-ing and har-ing about a possible wide release. God knows there was enough public interest being generated by those who had been lucky enough to see it during its festival run. The people – and Spielberg – spoke, enough fans demanded it and after so long PARANORMAL ACTIVITY has finally made it to theaters. But the question still remains, how much of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is just hype?
For the uninitiated, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is an ultra-low budget “found footage” flick about a woman being haunted by a supernatural presence that has taken an all too unwanted liking to her. To better understand what’s going on in their house whilst they sleep, she and her boyfriend deploy the trusty ol’ handycam, setting it up at night to record the creepy happenings that go on around them whilst they sleep.
So for the last couple of months I’ve been watching the serving back and forth between the two camps of people who’d seen it: those that loved it and those that absolutely hated it. There seems to be very little if any middle ground to stand on with this thing. You either worship it and the air it takes up, or you loath every mention of it. Me personally, I reside on that small sliver of minority that makes up the middle grounders. True story.
To be honest, I just didn’t think it was great enough to justify the hype. No, I did not have exceedingly high expectations, and yes I saw it in a cinema with a jam packed crowed of people, all of whom were shitting their pants every time anything did anything or made even the slightest noise. Quite frankly, the experience of watching PARANORMAL ACTIVITY did more for me then the movie itself; don’t get me wrong, it did give me the heebie-jeebies, and on more than one occasion made me not want to see what was coming next, for fear of looking like a wimp. But as a whole the thing just didn’t vibe right for me. Maybe it was the long periods of nothingness that padded out the night scenes, or the fact that the characters are so goddamn dislikeable; honest to God I must ask how we’re supposed to sympathize with the Micah character when he does everything he can to make matters worse for himself. Sure I can understand curiosity or the need to defend yourself and those you care for, but when some unseen, indestructible force sets something in your house on fire, you don’t start calling out like you’re about to go three rounds with it in a ring, especially not when it rips your girlfriend out of the bed and drags her halfway across the house.
Now how about something positive to say? I’d like to keep this thing balanced after all, because as I said before, I don’t dislike the movie. The scares were pretty top notch and for my money dread and suspense was built up fairly well, I dare say that the reason for my experience being so lackluster was the films inability to maintain that suspense during the in-between bits. But when the creepy started, it started like nobody’s business. I’d like preface with; yes, I am a fan of BLAIR WITCH, and if you’re not then chances are you won’t side with me here. Call it an overactive imagination but what I can’t see is far worse then what I can, and worse still is when I can only hear it. Or for that matter when I can’t hear but think I do; it made me paranoid, and whilst other can complain that all the boogidy boo noises were lame, I’m willing to bet they are the first to relieve themselves in their underwear when they hear them late at night in their own house. Which I dare say is why the film is so damn winnable to so many people. The setting alone is about as relatable as it gets, which is part of the reason why BLAIR WITCH was so successful. After all, who hasn’t been camping before?
I had a conversation recently on the subject of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY being the current golden child of the horror genre and SAW getting the royal boot by its own fans. What it boiled down to is that whether or not you liked the film, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is likely to give the genre a much needed change because for the first time since (ironically) BLAIR WITCH, the kids on the street aren’t saying: “That was so awesome the way his guts were flying everywhere,” but instead: “Holy crap, that movie scared the crap out of me.” And doesn’t that just sound so much better? I don’t have a thing against gore myself but to have horror come to a point where it’s actually trying to be scary again is just such a relief. It wasn’t that long ago that people were saying the genre had died another death. Even though PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is only a decent movie, it could be the one that gives the genre some new life.