Unlike many of my fellow horror friends, I first saw Paranormal Activity from the privacy of my own home. After finishing the film I felt what can only be described as a deep sense of disappointment. That was it? I finally see the scariest film of the year and all I get is a couple of footsteps and a glance into the most annoying couple in the world? After this initial viewing I shook off my feelings of disappoint and reasoned that my lack of disinterest had to do with the conditions in which I saw it.
I figured that seeing it in the movie theater would allow for many more scares. The sound being amplified and all would mean that I wouldn't have to lock myself in a closet with my laptop to hear the sound that was evidently suppose to be scary. In addition to the volume being decreased, you've also got a room full of people being scared together. Having other people so close to you, an hearing them react almost causes this weird domino effect--making your skin crawl as well. I was clearly not in a crowded movie theater, and my cat although cute, could hardly be described as petrified. Sleepy more like it.
Yes, I'd say I was doomed from the get go. That is until I noticed that Paranormal Activity was streaming on Instant Watch. I figured the time was ripe for a second chance, what with the sequel coming out and the Halloween season rearing its head. I put in my headphones to block outside noises, and cranked the volume to make sure I heard every footstep and every door creak. After finishing this viewing I came to two very important conclusions: 1.) Paranormal Activity is not very re-watchable and 2.) it totally sucks. Since you aren't just allowed to say something sucks these days without proper explanation, here is some explanation.
1.) Micah is a stain.
Never in my life have I encountered a more annoying character in a horror movie. Keep in mind I've endured some pretty annoying big breasted sluts, and some even more annoying big headed jocks from the bowels of the slasher genre. I understand that horror films have gotten to the point where the characters must be dispensable and that often times we even root for the annoying ones to be picked off. The problem here is that I'm not convinced Micah is suppose to be annoying. Judging by his nurturing, heroic nature, I'm assuming we are suppose to feel grateful for Micah and the "protection" he appears to lend to Katie. Instead what I get, is a man who thinks he is the toughest thing since Chuck Norris' underwear. His decisions and his reactions are not believable. This upsets me since the film is suppose to be entirely believable due to the hand held camera/ found footage thing going on.
My main question is this, who on this earth would witness such supernatural occurrences as Ouija boards catching on fire, demon footprints in baby powder, and loud unexplainable crashes and then say, "IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?! HUH?!"..................... It's a fucking demon dude, you can't bully it. It drove me absolutely insane that one of Micah's main goals was to catch the demon in the act, or worse-to show the demon who was boss.
Perhaps even more frustrating is that Micah is skeptical of the demon's power from the start. A weird attitude that seems to last until SPOILER..............the end. He somehow thinks a psychic is a bunch of baloney, after witnessing an Ouija board catch on fucking fire?
It doesn't make sense. Micah's tough guy attitude, and his insistence that the demon isn't really a threat, is something I just can't get past.
What? Oh sorry, I fell asleep while trying to remember why this movie is boring. The movie is boring, because we are simply waiting around for the nighttime scenes to happen. They have set the movie up in such a way that when we see the night vision camera set up, and the time stamp being sped up--we naturally slouch down in our seats with anticipation. This is a good tactic---but in this instance it, to use a phrase from Micah--seems like it's all they've got. What happens when it's not nighttime? We have to endure the endless exclamations of Katie's worry, Micah's disbelief, and worse---their stupid fights over video cameras. Each segment not filmed in the nighttime is like pulling teeth to me. I almost rather the movie solely be a collage of all the nighttime sequences.
Let's think about the most common thing that happens when they are not sleeping. Can you remember? Well alright, I'll tell you. The most common thing that happens when Micah and Katie are not sleeping is that they are re-watching the footage that we already fucking saw. Yes in a way I suppose it's chilling to hear their reactions to know what was happening while sleeping---but none of their reactions are surprising. Every reaction is, "Oh my god Micah" "Oh!" "Oh my god!". Woohooo. The re-watching of the footage is boring. I saw this happen already. Get back to another nighttime scene, thank you.
3. ) Confusion
I'm confused about something. For some reason I remember the footprints in baby powder being hoofed shape, this time I notice they were more webbed and scary. Either way it doesn't matter because both prints create two very scary images of demons.
and scaly webbed feet demon
Both I find equally original and terrifying. Original in this respect--I should add. The "demon" could have just been the presence of what appears to be a human--except of course that it's a demon. Having it actually resembling some kind of biblical goat/scaly creature is actually quite surprising and refreshing.
Aside from the footprints in the baby powder--almost everything else about the demon's presence is very human. The best example I think is the footsteps. You know what those footsteps sound like to me? Feet. Someone wearing shoes walking loudly up the stairs. Wouldn't it have just been amazing, if it was some other worldly sound coming up those stairs? Some crazy, unexplainable, indescribable noise? Take for example the sounds in the attic in The Exorcist. What the hell are those noises? We don't know. Hearing them freaks us out so much because we can't identify the noise. In Paranormal Activity however we can identify that noise--and that noise is feet. Boring loud feet. The noise was probably made by a crew member walking up the stairs. What made those crazy noises in The Exorcist? I have no clue what could possibly make that sound--and THAT is fucking scary.
The second example is the shadow that passes over the door at one point. Man, how I would have loved to see some horns up on that creature. Some abnormally tall being, or even a bad ass mother fucking goat. What I got though, was just a pretty normal head. Hello? You just set up an amazing idea in our heads with the footprints in the baby powder---and now you're giving me a normal looking shadow? Shit's whack!
4.) I got somethin' to say. And I ain't gonna say no more.
In conclusion, I think Paranormal Activity is one of the biggest victims of the hype monster. A lot of people compare it to another film often categorized underneath the hype monster--the Blair Witch Project. The Blair Witch Project for me however has one thing going for it that I feel Paranormal Activity does not. Watch ability factor. I can watch The Blair Witch Project over and over again and still feel marginally creeped out every single time. I get the same chills that I got when I first saw it--possibly even bigger chills after multiple viewings. With this second viewing of Paranormal Activity all I got were yawns. The main scare factor of Paranormal Activity are the sounds. I already know when and where those sounds occur so it's not going to surprise me in the same way that it did initially.
The Blair Witch Project however creates an environment that continues to be scary. The emotions, and the distress level, the hopelessness is so much more apparent in those woods than any time in Micah and Katie's house. I don't believe Micah and Katie's distress. I'm not agonizing over their situation because they are fucking idiots who annoy me. The Blair Witch Project brings a sense of impending doom, and it continues to introduce elements and factors contributing to the scare factor that do not contain the same boring night camera sequence, 3 AM time stamp bull shit.
Fact is this. I do not like Paranormal Activity. I don't care if it revolutionized the horror genre, by making box office history and becoming one of the most profitable films to date. Does that make it a great film? I don't think so. A great film will keep me up at night. It will cause me to close my eyes and picture exactly what it was that frightened me to the very core. When I watched The Changeling, the clanging pipes in my apartment caused me to lose at least a few hours of sleep. When I watched the Exorcist, I stayed up all night in fear I would become possessed. When I watched The Shining, the sound of the water flowing through the pipes sounded like blood rushing out of an elevator. When I watched Paranormal Activity, I also stayed up all night---because I could not for the life me understand why they had such a nice apartment. And also where did Micah find a demonic Ouija board?