Paranormal Activity offers up proof of a growing phenomenon, and no its not that ghosts or other spirits exist, the phenomenon I’m referring to is the modern day movie goers standards, and how they seem to be slipping lower then they have ever gone before. Hype is a common word inside Hollywood circles. Whether its good or bad, if a film manages to catch some, it guarantees a certain level of box office success. This film’s hype has been growing for the past month ever since its limited release. That hype very much centered around and took advantage of, the current pop culture infatuation with the paranormal. With several shows on TV that highlight “paranormal investigation” and the ghostly encounters that accompany such activities, this ghost “genre” so to speak, is currently enjoying its time in the spotlight. There have been several positive reviews of Paranormal Activity, and I won’t lie to you, this isn't one of them. That being said lets start with the good.
With a fairly original concept which utilizes simple scare tactic set-ups, realistic camera work, and a “mock-u-mentary” style approach in telling its story, Activity strives to capitalize on all the recent fads in Hollywood, and it does so brilliantly. When you consider that it only took around $10,000 to make, you can be certain that we will see many more films produced in the same way. Of course one film you can make an easy comparison to is The Blair Witch Project, and interestingly enough, I found that film to be superior to this one in almost every way. Here is why, the leading couple who are the victims of this haunt fest are not at all convincing as real characters, I believe this can be mostly attributed to their terrible dialog, and annoying almost “film school” game of pointless banter and cute “couple” moments. By the end I was truly hoping for the demise of the boyfriend (Thank God that works out). I must say the most effective portions of this film were the “nights” which were numbered 1 to 21. A couple very useful tools were used during these night camera sequences. One was time lapse, where we get to see the span of a couple hours in a few seconds. Another was the very effective use of silence. This technique built up the tension, and had you paying very close attention both audibly and visually. I would be lying if I said this film didn’t keep you captivated, it does.
Where it falls on its face is in its attempt to present itself as “true” material. The biggest issue I have with this film is its clichéd and almost silly ending. The film maker did a lot with very little on this picture, and for that I commend him, but to be that original, and somewhat groundbreaking with such a small production...only to then drop the ball at the end and fall into the cheep "CG demon face” pratfall. Why? If only they would have asked themselves this question before release. Hopefully the lesson of less is more often then not more, will be heeded and applied to similar flicks in the future. For now, Paranormal Activity serves as a decent “hug your date” vehicle for young teen couples. What this film also represents based on the viewership’s positive reactions, is a trend that American movie goers are satisfied much easier now, then when filmmakers such as Hitchcock, Friedkin, Craven, Romero, and Carpenter were at the heights of their talent. This is no The Exorcist but its good for a scare or two.