Saturday, October 24, 2009

paranormal activity [2007]

if horror movies were poets then i'd say the blair witch project [1999], now a decade old, is the eliot of the genre. both the poet and bwp were once massively popular and are now at times derided or out-and-out dismissed by audiences and critics alike. yet, both have an undeniable popular appeal and wield enormous, like it or not, influence over their respective disciplines.

bwp's influence is arguably felt in every hand-held camera and pov narrative in both indie films and commercial cinema. look around, and you'll see the evidence. and no where is bwp influence demonstrated more keenly than filmmaker oren peli's paranormal activity. it is incontrovertible, such influence, but all to peli's talent as a scare-meister does his film succeed in making the audience jump from fright.

i must've been the oldest dude in the audience tonight. i was, i think, the only one without a companion. part of the charm of watching horror movies in a theater crowded with couples and young people is to observe their reactions. so when we get to the end of this flick the whole audience jumped outta their seats and yelled, i'm not making this up, at the same time SHIT!!!!

if you haven't heard the movie is about a young couple, micah and katie, who are menaced by some thing that literally goes bump in the night. micah purchases a video camera and begins taping their ordinary activities during the day, and sets the camera up in their bedroom to shoot whatever they can find. as the title of this film spells out the activity progresses in intensity. each night when the camera shows the couple sleeping the dread rises several notches. we see the date and the time counter speed past as the couple toss and turn in their bed. then something happens. first just a some droning noise. next night footsteps. and so on. the level of intensity is gradually ramped up so high that it feels like you might have a stroke as your blood pressure redlines.

i'll say no more about the pic, but for the fact that micah suffers from a guy complex. the kind of a guy who wants to protect his girl, fight the entity and uses more brawn than brain. which is exactly how most guys operate. but when katie calls a psychic who then recommends a demonologist for help, micah pooh-poohs katie's urge to call and instead gets a ouija board and taunts the entity by daring it to show him what its got. you want to slap the shit outta micah and shout call the demonologist. peli's talent as a filmmaker is no where more evident than his orchestrations of the young couple. they are so believable. and we would in all reality act like micah.

being a student of movies i couldn't help but see the construction of the scenes and was thinking how certain fx were achieved. this is a very low-budget film, made for around 15 grand i think. yet the scares are genuine and got me to jump a couple of times. without trying to sound like a smart-ass i knew how the flick was going to end 2/3rds the way thru. knowing how it ends didn't minimize the force of shock. not that i'm going to tell you the ending. do yourself a favor and catch this movie in a theater before it disappears again.

like bwp there were mixed reactions by the audience who were either dazzled and scared silly by the film or instead thought it was just a load of hokum. just like poets who read eliot, lotsa of dazzle and vision, or just a lot of pyrotechnics that add up to nothing that leaves you empty inside. it's all good. who knows, eliot might get his day again. and bwp is, in my humble opinion, a marvel of subtle and succint scares. paranormal activity is a worthy successor of the fake docu tradition. but without a lot of middle ground, i'm afraid. either you'll love it, or you might feel just goddamned used.



At 12:29 AM, Blogger Closely Observed Train Stations said...

Interesting comparison - BWP and TSE - though I'm more of an Eliot person being more a fan of dread than horror. Enjoy the trip to Disney land by the way.

At 11:05 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

thanks, ryan. disneyland was a trip, but so is the whole of los angeles. the lot of disneyland and its sister park california adventure is a system of kitschy facsimile that appear to be both fake and true at the same time. being in a theme park that mirrors and reassambles the very real landmarks of the state that it is located in is quite like entering surreality as a fact.

do see PARANORMAL ACTIVITY if you like dread rather than outright horror.


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