Paranormal Activity (2007) (R)
Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit's due. "Paranormal Activity" is no such exception. Although it plods along in high mediocrity for the entire movie and its dependency on the found footage genre actually gives way to some fairly ridiculous moments of "art" meets "homemade", the movie can be seen as the reinvention of horror. It is no surprise that the franchise has gone on to make sequel after sequel—none matching the original success and acclaim of the first movie. When you are pumping out an easy to make, cheap horror movie, it would make sense to create as many as possible while people are still going to see them.
So while "Paranormal Activity" takes a huge cue from "The Blair Witch Project", it is by no means a classic horror movie, instead, just a middle part of what we could consider two masterpieces: "Blair Witch" and something yet to come. It's only an evolutionary stage, but that doesn't mean that it does not bear watching; because, amidst all its sins and voyeuristic intentions (what horror movie is really free from that?), it is very watchable and just the right amount of creepy.
This is the kind of movie you watch when you want to get freaked out. It's like a roller coaster, you get on, you have fun, you get off, and then you forget about it, because it was just entertainment.
As many horror movies do, "Paranormal Activity" masquerades as truth. This is the evidence from the San Diego police department that Oren Peli just has access to because he's...I don't know...awesome? Not really bothering to tell us why we are watching, the movie drops us in on the very middle of a conversation that Micah and Katie have been having. This couple is average in every way, well, in every white way. Sorry, this movie is not about racism, but there's sure to be a good college paper in there somewhere.
Anyway, they have a really nice house even though it looks like neither of them works, and Katie is being haunted. Oh yeah, probably should have mentioned that. Ever since her childhood, she has felt this presence following her around and so Micah, in a typical "I'll fix it, honey" way, has bought a digital camera and is going to film them during the night to see if they can capture the paranormal activity—ha! That's the title!—for study. It doesn't take long before creepy noises show up on the camera and Katie decides that she's going to call a paranormal expert to check out the house. The guy shows up and proclaims that she's probably being haunted by a demon, not a ghost, and this is out of his area of expertise so he peaces out.
Micah is left thinking that calling a demonologist would only exacerbate the situation and as a he-man—he is often seen manipulating Katie and putting her down—no one but he could possibly figure out what's going on.
Micah is the stupidest character in horror movie, but somehow not as annoying as Katie.
Two things bother me here: as someone whose name is Micah, the pronunciation of the name is so weird and consistently pissed me off. But that's a personal issue. Katie is just so passive, so whiny, and Katie Featherston is such a bad actor that she doesn't really pull off the role convincingly. Which is why it can never compete with "The Blair Witch Project". I found the actors in "Blair Witch" completely convincing, but in "Paranormal Activity" you are always aware that you're watching something manufactured.
The extremes of bizarre behavior are consistently used just for scares: like baby powder on the floor and keeping the door open while you sleep. Really? It doesn't seem logical in any fashion. Then again, this is a horror movie, so logic is far away.
This isn't to day that the movie is crap, because it's not. The movie is highly enjoyable and I actually will probably watch it again because it short and sweet and does everything that it should.
But that doesn't mean that it's a great movie, or even close.
Posted by Micah Jones