Sunday, November 1, 2009
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....