Saturday, October 17, 2009

REVIEW: Paranormal Activity...


So, it's almost Halloween.

That means, amongst other things, a rush of horrible and uninteresting "horror" films (I have a hard time classifying Saw as a horror franchise). Ranging from the simply boring like the Halloween series, which the latest installment H2 is getting a much uncalled for rerelease, to the unfrightening like Saw. Instead of true scares, we get constant shots of labotomies and boobs, which not a good horror film make.

That said, this year has also seen its fair share of legitamate horror. Sure, it's on a much smaller scale, but then again, isn't that what we all want? Along with the VOD only (right now) House of The Devil, a take on true '80's horror (a film I am working on seeing) to the twitter friendly Paranormal Activity, '09 is looking as being a solid step in the right way for horror.

Now, about that Paranormal Activity. Sure, the Twitter-sphere was a buzz with this 11,000$ horror flick, but was all this buzz completely worth it? To an extent, yes.

Paranormal Activity is not a film with the deepest of plots. PA follows a young, middle class couple, who after moving into what seems like a typical suburban 'starter' tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be somehow demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially when they sleep. Or try to. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. And for the most part, it works.

The biggest triumph of this film is in it's horror. It's not based on gore or any superficial thing like that, it's just a slow, slow burn of a horror film. The films nearest kin is The Blair Witch Project, and while I think that film is more fulfilling at the end, this one works far better as a true horror film. There are several shots, actually, all of the scare shots in the films first 80 minutes, that will be embedded in my brain as I go to sleep for a long time.

The film is done through a first person style perspective, or at least through the couples own personal camcorder, so the film quality isn't to great. A true Hollywood horror film this is not, yet, I must stand up and applaud director Oren Pelli for this fact. It's a slow burn, and the visuals fit that perfectly. Ranging from foot prints pointed out by baby powder, or a ouija board bursting into flames, the film maker is able to truly create a legitamate world, which, when something strays from the norm of this world, becomes something truly creepy. From the first 10 minutes on, from the first shot of a door slightly moving, this film had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. It starts ominous, with things that could be explained as say, the wind blowing, then the scares start ramping up, until the climax.

That god damn climax however. The first 80 minutes of this 90 minute film, are some of the most frightening I have seen all year, if not the past 5 years. Not since the Decent have I been this terrifyed. That said, there may not be an ending this year that has left a more sour taste in my mouth while walking out. The film works so hard at setting this tone, that, while never coming out and saying this is a true story, it works so hard to set the tone that this could be a true story, even ending with statements about the whereabouts of the two leads after what happens. However, the final 10 minutes feel so inorganic and so very "Hollywood", particularly the very last jump scare, that it just capsized the boat that was full of what the film worked so hard to collect. Tension. Sure, I jumped, but it was so manipulative and just truly out of place, that it bugged the hell out of me.

However, the film would not have worked in the slightest if the two leads did not havev some sort of chemistry. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat are rookie actors, and if these two were not actors, I would have totally believed that these two were truly in a relationship together. Sure, they don't leave the house when that would be the easiest solution to their problem (although the film is sly about hinting that it may not truly be the best way to solve said problem), and Micah is a tad bit annoying and obnoxious, but when things get hectic, the two are completely fleshed out, making the terror all the more powerful.

I'm leaving the review there as it is really not a film that you want to ruin by reading a review. Hell, you shouldn't even see a trailer. The film is 80 minutes of brilliance, and 10-15 of Hollywood drek, so the film gets a deserving score. Honestly, just go see the damn thing already. Well, AFTER you see Where The Wild Things Are.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY - 8/10

Go see something good!

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