Paranormal Activity is not a thrill ride. If it’s a ride at all, it’s a clunky rollercoaster that’s broken down just before its upside-down portion, leaving you waiting in vain for excitement and also slightly worried about the blood that’s been running to your head. Or maybe it’s the little train ride in the children’s area that excites only because you can’t see beyond the bend and think it’s going somewhere, when really it's just interminably circling while spinning tinny bullshit into people’s heads.
You know the couple. They get along, mostly, have silly tiffs that are both illogical and wholly cute. They live in an upper-middle-class starter home. Micah (Micah Sloat) is a day trader. Katie (Katie Featherston) is a student. She’s vaguely cute in a way that is not threatening to any hot girls. Her boyfriend is kind of a douchebag, but also kind of a catch. And he does right by her, takes care of her.
This would have been a boring movie if the only conflict had come from fights that seem to have been plucked from thin air. Lucky for us, our female lead has been haunted by a demon since childhood. Her male counterpart is skeptical about this turn of events. Because of this, he decides to tape the household's night-to-night events to prove to Katie there is a rational solution. The movie follows this taping, showing all of the mysterious occurrences that later begin to melt the loving couple’s relationship.
It’s easy to see why people jumped hook, line, and sinker on board with this film. The way the couple bonds is a reminder of most of us at our most tedious -- and probably most normal. It’s familiar to see Micah hold back his exasperation to respond rationally and strongly towards his girlfriend’s seemingly wild claims and utterly chaotic mind frame. It’s intelligent that the shots of the two in bed don’t focus on ridiculous sex scenes -- although there is the tease of one. It’s intelligent that the two sleep apart -- they are in that stage of their relationship, past the point where they feel the need to cuddle up until they both have cricks in their necks. If this were a prom photo, Micah and Katie would not be the glassy-eyed king and queen; they’d be that awkward couple fighting in the background. But they’d still be holding hands. Their behavior is mostly teasing, somewhat condescending, and occasionally really cute. That couple does exist and isn’t a burden to watch onscreen.
However, before this becomes some silly stereotyping psychological reduction, let’s talk about the movie. It was shot on around a 15 thousand-dollar budget. Impressive. I’m no special-effects guru, and I don’t want to ruin the movie for all you folks, so let me just say this: certain shots relaying demonic actions are appealing to watch. Like a magic trick, the audience is left to try to figure out the answers. Unlike magic, there are no cages to crush birds or coat sleeves to hide new ones. The film is sheer do-it-yourself ingenuity.
My friend argued the other day that Paranormal Activity is tacky, B-movie crap that people have gotten way too hyped up over because of its limited budget. Does the film’s limited budget make it a better film? Not really. Is the film harming the world by existing? Certainly not, and it’s harmless enough entertainment. Would I watch it in a dark basement with no lights with my kids during their first scary movie experience? Probably not, for many reasons, including the fact that, despite the hype, it’s not all that scary.
So, don’t pop in Paranormal Activity expecting it to be a huge scare or some directorial masterpiece. If you do, you’ll be left disappointed. Paranormal Activity is all about the hype. In its theater release, people came out in droves because hype had been built up. And I’m sure everyone said good, decent, or meh, before they said disappointed. The ending of Paranormal Activity follows suit.
Just don’t be too surprised that studios aren’t jumping to cover expenses on director Oren Peli’s next project.
There aren’t any special features, which probably had something to do with the low budget, but also sucks because it would have been fabulous to have been privy to some behind-the-scenes cuts to find out how certain special effects were constructed so cheaply. Interestingly, the Blu-Ray disc does feature an alternate ending that is both different from the initial ending of the film and the theatrical ending. If anything, it’s worth checking out!