johnlink re-ranks PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2009)

Being October, I figured it would be appropriate to hit up some horror flicks. I’ve wanted to see the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films, but only ever saw the first back when it was in theaters. When doing a re-ranking, I try not to lean on my original article. I know I scored this film fairly high, and I assumed (years later now) that I must have over-estimated its worth. I started this movie tonight fully expecting to knock it down a peg.

I watched PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2009) on 10.8.12. It was my second viewing of the film, and first since I saw it in the theater. My original ranking is here.

With its found footage, unknown actors, single location, and effects-free movie making, this is the very definition of low-budget. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is film conceived of by its Director, Oren Peli, and shot entirely in his home. He didn’t have dialogue written, per se, but rather a series of scenarios from which his actors could improvise.

Often, with a movie like this, the first viewing packs a punch and subsequent screenings provide diminishing returns. I fully anticipated this to be one of those movies. Instead, I found myself enjoying it immensely this second time around.

I knew certain beats were coming and I remembered certain key scares (though not specifically when they would happen). The tension which is built is very real, and certainly visceral. Oren uses the slow build to make us anxious.

Many have reported feeling this movie was funny. One argument goes “I waited twenty minutes for a door to move and a light to turn on and off.” Clearly, short-attention span is a problem in the modern moviegoer. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, for me anyway, has characters we want to follow and a build which does pay off. Sure the door just moves a little at first. But then, days later, it slams. And days after that…. well, I don’t want to spoil the fun.

It is certainly the characters which are essential to the success film. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat play a young couple named, well, Katie and Micah. When they moved into their house together Micah didn’t know his girlfriend had been followed by a ghost from house to house. He decided to document what might happen, leading to the found footage format. The key to their relationship working, in the context of the movie’s conflict, is that Micah doesn’t really fear this sort of ghosty stuff. He certainly doesn’t think what is happening is harmful, so he is willing to try to provoke it because he thinks there are no consequences  Much of what happens to these two is his fault, even if we know Katie is the entity’s entry into the world. While some have turned their nose down at the performances given in this film, I (on the contrary) think they are entirely believable and consistent. There is no moment in this film in which I am pulled from the developed reality due to inadequate acting.

The movie gives us plenty of legitimate scares. The angle of the camera in the bedroom (one that has become an iconic horror image, for what it is worth), is the perfect shot. The camera is pulled back enough to give us several focal points. Should we look at the bed? The door? The hallway? We have to concentrate real hard because the film establishes early that the movement might be quite small. So when something big happens, it really nails us. The shot puts us in a powerless position as an audience as well. Sometimes the camera is picked up by one of the characters and moved toward the action. When this doesn’t happen, we are left trying to wait for the action to come to us. It really is an effective device.

This blog is littered with horror movies, many of them bad. The feeling invoked by a truly good horror flick is one of the great joys of cinema-going. Unfortunately, one has to wade through a lot of terrible horror films before finding little treasures. Like I said in the intro, I fully expected to come to this and knock it down a peg upon second viewing. Instead, I think I have to declare it one of the best horror movies of the young 21st century. Are the follow ups nearly as good? I sure hope so, though I won’t hold my breath.





(Finally looking at my original ranking, I gave it 8,9,9,7 and a bonus point for the false reality the film manages to maintain. So the average was 8.5. Therefore I did knock it down slightly, though I won’t ever again make the mistake of thinking I overrated this film).

~ by johnlink00 on October 8, 2012.

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