Paranormal Inactivity (November 28th 2009)
Last night I watched “the scariest movie of the decade” – Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity.
Quick plot summary – Katie thinks she is haunted. Her boyfriend Micah is skeptical. He buys a camera to film everything. Turns out she is haunted, just not in a very interesting way.
To clear up one major point: this is not the scariest movie of any decade, let alone one that has produced films such as El Orfanato, Rec and The Others. This film is tedious beyond belief. Episodic night-time scenes are not enough to maintain a narrative where the only other points of interest are Katie (Katie Featherstone) screaming “I don’t fucking care! I want that fucking camera out of my house!” and Micah (Micah Sloat) taking the piss out of a psychic investigator.
The handheld camera gimmick is now beyong the point of getting old. Blair Witch did it well; Rec and Cloverfield did it fairly well, even if it didn’t really feel necessary, Diary of the Dead was poor, mainly because of the arsehole holding the camera, and now Paranormal Activity, which is the worst of all. I don’t know if this is my interpretation or if it is intentional on the part of the directors of these films, but it seems to me that they believe this technique puts the audience into the action, therefore upping the intensity levels. Not so, Mr Peli.
To me, the use of handheld camera, especially in a film as dull as Paranormal Activity, gives the same effect as watching your boring friend’s boring home video, where he films his girlfriend all day, trying to get her to have sex in front of the camera. It’s not something we need to watch.
I’m not saying that a film has to be full of gore and screaming to interest me – I do think that this was better than Saw VI – but it has to be full of something. Reading Peter Bradshaw’s review in The Guardian I was struck by his opening gambit: “It has been some time since I physically jumped at a scary movie. Horror has become a predictable genre – these days maggoty skulls can leap out of wardrobes all they want and we merely yawn. But in this film, all it took was one bedroom door to move 12 inches, unaided – just that, nothing else – and I felt like leaping into the arms of the person next to me.” Yes, horror is a very subjective genre, but I am yet to read a negative review of this film. I cannot be the only one who was not scared by this. And for the record, ghosts/supernatural beings are generally what gets me the most – The Blair Witch Project, El Orfanato and The Haunting are the three movies that have shit me up the most, and they are all about similar subject matter, and similar ways of scaring the audience.
Unfortunately, there is a sequel to Paranormal Activity, due in 2012, and it is safe to say that I will not be first in line.