Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quick Thoughts: Paranormal Activity

So unless you’re one of the six people left with $12 in your pocket and 90 minutes of your life to spare, you’ve probably seen Paranormal Activity and finally, one month and one false start (as the 1:50 Sunday afternoon showing decided to not actually ‘show’ the film and simply play audio for the first five minutes), I have now whittled the number down to five. Since everyone and their hamster has reviewed the film with fairly universal critique--and mine don’t really differ too much from the masses--I’ll condense my thoughts to the following:
The highest point of my film viewing, I must say, was that I sat in a fairly crowded theater full of diverse ticket buyers and not one of them laughed at the talking baby eTrades commercial. In no way does this say anything about Paranormal Activity--I could have won $9 million dollars plus a lifetime supply of pumpkin ice cream served year round and I still would have been more impressed by the slow improvement on taste and humor in general audiences today.
I hate talking babies. Just cause their lips move as an adult makes inappropriate jokes does not mean they are funny.
Anyway, the movie.
I liked it. Felt edgy here and there, but not in the hyperventilating style of the either easily-frightened or chronically asthmatic teens a few rows behind me. Still, I found it effective enough and can honestly admit that the next day, I was a tad uncomfortable when my cat proceeded to sprint across my apartment trying to catch a ball of air, which I naturally have decided is my own personal demon named Simon that doesn’t like it when I watch basic cable. 
Some quick takes in SPOILER territory: I agree with the 2-Second-2-Long discussion cruising through the Interwebs. I jumped at the ‘first’ ending, was slightly haunted by the next shot, but found the final crawl a tad too long and unnecessary, especially in light of the suddenness of the creditless black screen.
Performances were fine. I believed the pair as a couple, although where a student and day trader got enough money to buy that house and spend the entire day inside it or basking in a Beverly Hills inground pool is beyond me. 
Stuff that worked? The tiny touches that built up possibility without ever shoving your face in eeriness. The broken picture. The found photo. The weirdness of those footprints. The image of someone standing for two hours. I even appreciated the subtle performance of the psychic and everything that his second visit implied. 
Basically, Paranormal Activity is a decent and effective little film that you can’t not root for in the face of its budget and scrappy climb to the top of the box office. Not the scariest film of the decade by any means, but certainly worth your time in a dark place with full attention. I’ll leave my thoughts there for now, save for a few lessons I simply can’t not impart.
Lessons Learned

Demons may haunt you for your whole life, but they won’t get violent until you move in with a really obnoxious yuppie
If you can afford a brand new convertible and a huge house in San Diego, you can afford to call a demonologist
Ouija boards have gotten much cooler looking in recent years
Saying “I have a plan” over and over again does not actually mean you have one

Tomorrow, my Pop Syndicate column will attempt to detail the hype around this and similar films and more importantly, some new methods for how to navigate unanimous praise or buildup and simply enjoy the film. Until then, here's a picture to remind us how frightening Carrot Top has become, and why no demon named Simon or Beelzebub or Sarah Palin can compare:


  1. My girlfriend and I despise those eTrade commercials with such passion. Bad FX work and they aren't funny. At all. "Oh Gawd! It's a talking's so funny, AND cute!"

    Glad you liked the does has a lasting effect after seeing it, especially when you're all alone. Also, that ouija board was mad tight!

  2. Great review! I also enjoyed PA and was uncomfortable in my home for a few days after. I agree about the nice touches like the shattered and shredded picture of the couple, the photo in the attic, and Katie's ear-piercing and terrifying scream at the end.

  3. Thanks fellas!

    I was actually very disappointed when I failed to have any good PA inspired nightmares, but I definitely did catch goosebumps when my heater started its angry buzzing in the middle of the night. And yes, Katie's scream was horrifying. I do wish we didn't have that last prolonged shot of her at the camera. I didn't mind seeing her in blood and assuming her to be the thrower, but the last image negated that scream just a smidgen.

    And yeah, talking babies aren't cute. They're weird and awkward, especially when their dialogue is less exciting than a frat pledge explaining Internet investments. Death to talking babies at the roundhouse kick of Chuck Norris!

  4. What terrifies me more than anything is that after watching this my fiance told me that his father tends towards standing up while "sleeping" and just staring at his wife... GAH! I may not be able to marry into this family now! Seriously, I'm pretty sure if I woke up to someone standing up and staring at me instead of laying down like they're supposed to, I'd have a heart attack on the spot... or at least freak the eff out and possibly break up with them.

  5. Get out now! Sister, there are PLENTY of fish in the sea who are not genetically inclined to eerily hovering over your sleeping body and/or attracting annoying, evil, and annoyingly evil demons. Unless you're a jerk like Micah (and kind of deserve what may happen, bad boyfriend that he was), keep looking!

  6. Yeah, Micah was an ass. I was really hoping something awful would happen to him and was not disappointed! I'm going to wait out the relationship some... as of yet nothing creepy has happened to us... but if it does, I'm bolting :P I will NOT be a horror movie statistic!

  7. Things did seem to work out for the psychic who escaped early, so you might be okay, providing you leave the very SECOND he sleep stands. I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, but I'm only looking out for you.

  8. I appreciate it... I am always on the look out for the sleep stand. I told him I would break up with him even if he did it jokingly, he thought that was harsh, I did not.

  9. maybe this movie is the best live documentary after witch blair's project, there's others but no one can be compare with this documentary, live the horror with this couple and try to sleep in the night.