Sunday, November 1, 2009

Paranormal Activity


Hello there......is your post Halloween hangover still lingering? I'll try to talk softly and not make too much noise....

Welcome. Welcome to the blog of the last person in in the blogosphere to see Paranormal Activity. I've spent the last couple of weeks avoiding reviews, previews, even skipping my brother's review over at Project Blue. I truly wanted my experience of the movie to be as untainted as possible. The only thing I had seen was the first trailer that came out - which was composed mostly of audience reactions - and I even turned that off before it was finished. So in honor of that, I'm going to attempt to give you my impressions without giving anything away about the movie.

I really tried my best to set aside all the hoopla and just focus on the film in front of me. So my review of the film itself is going to be short and sweet, but my review of my EXPERIENCE is going to be somewhat more extensive.

First of all - AWESOME job with a limited budget, cast, effects, sets.....you don't get much more basic than this movie. So huge, huge kudos to the filmmakers for doing what the big studios with a hella lot more cash can't manage to do - get us to care about the characters, get invested in the story, make us hide our eyes behind our fingers, and SCARE us.

My brother at Project Blue is completely right in his assessment that it is the suspense that makes this film. He's also correct in that they did an awesome job of building the dread as day turns to night......with the growing realization that maybe we're not safe at all, regardless of the time of day.

I think that you also need to suspend a bit of disbelief -that is, if you don't happen to believe that the actual events of the movie are possible. One of the downsides of the film is that it's being billed as 'the scariest thing ever' - and depending on what you think is truly frightening - you'll either have nightmares or be hugely disappointed. Putting aside the actual events of the film, what is scary to me is the loss of control of your environment and attempting to deal with a force that you have absolutely no framework of reference for.

In the end, I'm so glad that I avoided the media around this film as much as I could. I really think my plan to know as little as possible made a HUGE difference. Papa Cash said he only watched one or two previews but felt when the movie was over that he'd seen the scariest parts already......he went into the theater wondering 'what else are they going to show me?' and came away a little disappointed. I went in almost completely tabula rasa and came out scared. (One thing that was apparent to me is that reviews tended to fall either into loving the movie or feeling eh...so what) I'm wondering if P.C.'s experience isn't the reason for some of the 'eh..so what' reactions.

One thing I had heard was the opinion that seeing this movie in the theater was THE way to see it. I'm not 100% convinced of that. While the added experience of a dark, crowded theater had some positives - I did have the feeling several times last night that I was not getting the full effect of the soundtrack - which is not usual in a theater. But we're talking about a very low budget film and a very full, noisy theater. I anticipate that it'll be another experience on the surround sound in my quiet living room, and I'll be able to pick up on some of the more subtle moments of the film.

I'm looking forward to reading all the reviews I skipped to see if the audience reaction was mentioned. There were a few collective LOUD screams in the appropriate places (which was fun) but there were some weird reactions going on during the rest of the film.

First of all, there was a LOT of laughing - and sometimes it fell during very inappropriate places. There was the giggling that could have, I suppose, been interpreted as nervousness - waiting for the scare, wondering what was going to happen- although it was very rampant and kind of annoying. Then there was the laughing that seemed mean spiritied to me - such as when a character on the screen was genuinely upset and crying. There was a LOT of laughter from the audience during these moments - and I'm kind of at a loss to interpret it. These scenes were played without any amount of humor - and I felt they were very genuine and well- acted. I'm not sure why a huge part of the audience found it so amusing. As I listened to the reactions and comments from the audience as we left, it dawned on me that people treated the movie more like a Haunted House ride than an actual film. Which I think is kind of a travesty and doesn't give the film its due.

In retrospect, I wish I'd waited for another day to see it, in a different theater, with fewer people. I used to think there was a kind of fun element to watching horror movies in a packed theater, but after last night, I think I'm kind of over that. I don't think that I would have missed out on any of the experience if I'd just waited to watch it at home - and with what I paid for tickets last night, I could have just pre-ordered the Blu-Ray.

Bottom line is - this is an independent horror film made for next to nothing - and it's without a doubt the best horror film I saw this holiday season. While the studios continue to make Saw Part -Whatever, or remake some other film we loved twenty years ago, a group of the little guys made what I think is the scariest and most effective American horror movie this year. Whether you love the movie, or think it's over - hyped, I hope that we all as horror fans can at least get behind that.

Time to go watch the Packer-Vikings game....
Mother Firefly

4 comments:

Jumbo's Lezis said...

I am going to ramble on about a couple of things.

First I noticed the out of place laughter at the theater we went to. I figured it was an isolated incident sparked by annoying teenage kids trying to be funny. I think its deeper then that, possibly they were scared and that was a way to hide it, by laughing.

I also think its hard to define this as the "Scariest movie ever". Dont get my wrong, my review shows that I loved it, I just think that matter of opinion. Dawn of the Dead is one of my favorite movies of all time, but by no means would I call it the scariest movie ever, even though my 8yr old may tell you different. Another one is High Tension, awesome movie, pushed limits, good gore, but by no means would I call it the scariest movie ever. This could be proof of why I could never be a good movie critic, I am not able to say something is the "best movie ever", just because I think the majority of the masses will believe so.

I think this movie won me over because it can and does hit close to home. I grew up in a house that had frequent haunted nights and sounds of people coming up and down the stairs. It even went as far as seeing someone standing at the foot of the stairs while I was trying to sleep. I think people whom believe or would love to believe will see this movie and absolutely love it. The worst part about it is I wonder now how many times something stood next to me when I was a kid.

Oh, this movie also reinforces my theory that true hauntings only take place in two story homes.

Mother Firefly said...

Two story homes, huh? LOL. I need to make a note of that when we start house hunting.

Interesting that you experienced the 'inappropriate' laughter too. Maybe it does speak to the age of the audience or the maturity level - if the film did stir up uncomfortable feelings in them - maybe that's the only way they know how to deal with them.

I know marketing is important but I agree that writing 'scariest movie ever' is eventually going to end up in backlash. I think it is the mark of a good critic NOT to label things 'best ever' - and instead try to be a little more objective. It could be that some people make broad, huge statements like that so they DO end up on the movie poster. Who knows.

And I agree about it hitting close to home. I lived in the same house you did, and I heard my fair share of bangings and unexplained noises - and to this day, being woke up up by a loud bang or thud remains one of my biggest fears. I did think of you when I watched the film.

I also knew it left its mark on me when I woke up in the middle of the night and started thinking about the movie.....had to change the mental images REAL fast.

Jumbo's Lezis said...

I didnt have any follow up scary dreams, kind of unfortunate, would have made the experience a lot better. I figured I would have had one from our grandmothers house, seems to be where all of mine take place.

Mother Firefly said...

Well, dang. Maybe you'll have more luck when it's on DVD and you watch it at home.

I wonder how many people have serial nightmares that take place in a location from their childhood? I know I do - only it's at a different grandparent's than yours.