The last couple of nights I have treated myself to a fright night before Halloween to see if I could indeed watch a film this year that would successfully freak me out enough to get in the mood for the ahem *holiday*. So I watched Paranormal Activity 1… and 2 .
The first film generated much furore – remember all those adverts of preview screenings? – the night-cam shots of audiences jumping out of their seats, popcorn raining left, right and centre out of their hoisted boxes and the brazen announcements that SCARIEST FILM YOU WILL EVER SEE EVER IN A TRILLION YEARS ! When it’s marketed like that, that’s already assuming way too much. If it’s a budget movie whatever, I’m not averse to that, in the last decade God knows there has been a higher ratio of better quality movies produced on a shoestring to the big budget monotonous disasters. However it still annoys me when any movie is cocky as to claim that it will make feel a certain way just because it adheres to all the elements of that genre: Case in point ‘Bride Wars‘ claimed to be the funniest movie of 2009, bull-crap. Okay so this definitely applies to almost all movie promos – that’s marketing and brainwashing to the max which they’re all guilty of, and sometimes it works – but I’ll take the subtle approach every time thanks – unless the film has the backing of Spielberg, who has like it or not proven his worth in both quality and delivery in the industry or you’re any of these people and have a ‘guaranteed-entertainment-regardless-of-the-movie-content-actor pass’:
There are many others (Tom Cruise is one of them, but he has far too many creepy farcical type images that I don’t want up here) who like these guys have it down pat by the variety of roles they have taken on and like it or not – you have enjoyed at least one film that they have been part of.
Anyway Paranormal Activity had none of these people in it but worse it was a Horror movie, claiming to be the best I would ever see. When I heard this I let out a groan of contempt, with an absurd abundance of lame Horrors being churned out by the studio’s since Scream brought the genre back to life in the late 90s after Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street were churning it back in the 70s and early 80s, I was Horror movie’d out, what was so different about this one?
Well nothing is the answer. However I did watch it in the comfort of my own room, no lights and no more hype. People were banging on about the sequel, but no one was referring to it being any good – so naturally I wanted to watch it, but it meant watching the first.
It embodies everything the new wave horror movie drives for. Ugly hand-held camera shots, jump cuts, improve acting, all the elements of psychological horror and the dreaded silent anticipation of what you think you see or hear, not what you’re forced to see, feel or think.
Unlike Blair Witch, the camera isn’t at the mercy of the film-maker in the films. In fact its the scenes when they are sleeping, looking in another direction or out of the room, with the camera sturdy on a tripod, that we witness the horror. Whilst watching these films I was constantly reminded of the phrases – ‘what you don’t know won’t kill you’, ‘none-the-wiser’ ‘If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’.
Could something be behind me right now, blowing air through the bed sheets, casting a shadow on the wall when I’m not looking? Perhaps – maybe I’ll never know (nor do I want to). It’s just that so many of the scenes that played out in the film were familiar to me.
The bedroom scenes were undoubtedly the scariest in the first film. That disturbing feeling that you are being watched is never appealing. To think it is spooky, to see it on camera confirms a lot of nightmares, but, this film points one thing out from the beginning we are reviewing the evidence. So what happens to this couple? is this thing haunting them going to reveal itself, what or who is it? why ? why? why? For this I loved it, and swiftly moved on to the second film which I didnt love so much, but neither harmed nor really helped its predecessor.
paranormal Activity 2 is actually a prequel to the Paranormal Activity following the younger sister (Krista) of protagonist Kate of the latter film. It begins amidst the aftermath of a burglary at the home of Krista and her family, and the subsequent installation of cameras all over the corners of the house. However when strange goings-on start to spook the other family members the step-daughter of the haunted starts to dig a little deeper and it is revealed that someone in the family’s past has made a pact with a demonic entity. Idiot. Now it has come to collect on its wager. Enter the first infant male born in the family’s history since a long time ago. It wants the boy (probably to create some sort of anti-Christ) and it will haunt the family and kill them till it gets it. What it doesn’t bank on is the family fighting back and sending the demon on its merry way. Unfortunately for them – but great for us – this helps conclude open ends from the first film which actually takes place after the events in the second…still with me? So if we head back to the first film (Paranormal Activity) we then understand how the protagonist and her carefree boyfriend become subjected to the demon, and how it subsequently reeks its revenge over the whole family and collects on its deal made with ‘Granny demon pact maker’ of past.
In the second film there are all sorts of religious connotations that were not present or were shunted in the first, mainly by the protagonists boyfriend, from the start. That’s what freaked me out – the fact that the horror was already explained, it was just us waiting for it to do something. In the first film, we have no idea why it’s all happening, we just know that it’s happened to her before and no one wants to deal with it, not even the psychic, and its that last scene when the psychic gets freaked out, that I find one of the most scariest scenes I have ever witnessed on film.
Bringing me back to the horror ingredients of religion, family, history, psychology. It contained all of these elements that are key to freaking me out. Up until this movie I couldn’t explain why I didn’t like most horror movies or why I preferred Omen and Sixth Sense (not really a horror more thriller) to Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now I know that it has more to do with the psychological and unexplained, than crazed serial killer with a sordid past.
I thoroughly enjoyed these two films, hype or no hype, they are spooky. But don’t watch if you’re expecting endless chases through the dark and knife wielding masked bodies jumping in to frame. It’s a slow build up of emotions and constant tease as to how far you’re allowing your imagination to go.