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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Paranormal Activity

     I don't go to the movies often.  In fact, the last movie I saw in a theater was "The Mist", if that gives you any idea.  Why, you ask?  Because the current state of movies SUCK.  That's why.  Modern movies are abysmal, to say the least.  But once in a while, I stumble across a diamond in the rough.  Last night, four of us went to a 9:20 showing of "Paranormal Activity 2".  Almost every seat was filled, and I must say the movie did what very few movies do anymore.  It simply scared the bejesus out of the entire audience. Seriously.  Even the males in the audience had no problem letting everybody else know just how scared they were watching.  I loved this movie- so much in fact, that I felt a look back at the original "Paranormal Activity" was in order.  Now a lot of people hated the first, just as they hated "The Blair Witch Project", "Cloverfield", etc.  I'll never understand this.  I love these movies- they are a breath of fresh air among the tired remakes and even more tired teenage thrillers.  You can keep your "SAW" movies- I'll take me some "Paranormal Activity" anyday.

    First of all- I don't scare easily.  Most horror movies are so formulaic that you immediately know how the shit is going to go down.  Sadly, the 70's and 80's are long gone, and I don't think we'll ever see a more rich, creative era when it comes to filmmaking.  Not just horror, either.  Anyway, "Paranormal Activity" is a prime example of a  fresh, creative horror movie that completely blows away the conventional trappings of your standard, audience-pleasing fare.  Watching "Paranormal Activity", you honestly have no idea what is going to happen.  The film is constantly compared to "The Blair Witch Project", but why is that such a bad thing?  Both movies chose to take a different route- scaring us with something we have never been subjected to before, and choosing to slowly build tension, until full-blown terror sets in.  Instead of yet another "I Know What You Did Last Summer" or even worse, a re-gurgitated version of a classic movie, we are treated to a frighteningly tense and spooky ghost story.  Many people have complained of how "boring" these movies are.  I strongly disagree.  If you think these movies are "boring", I think maybe you just have no attention span.  You might respond more to Rob Zombie's dreadful "Halloween" rip-off instead.  

     What I loved about "Paranormal Activity" is that the director opted for minimal special effects, lighting, and sounds.  Yes, it does start off rather slow.  But it's deliberately slow.  The director wisely figures that slowly building tension is far more rewarding than just hitting us over the head first thing.  One of the major complaints about "Paranormal Activity" is that we never actually see the ghost- just like how in "The Blair Witch Project" we never actually see the witch.  Guess what, peeps?  It's called an imagination, and I highly suggest investing in one.  It's a great thing.  It's what we DON'T see that scares us.  What we can conjur up with our imaginations is far more scarier than any CGI effect they can come up with, in my humble opinion.  But unfortunately, many movie-goers can't seem to use that mass inside their heads called a brain, and must 
have everything shown to them because they can't conjure up the images on their own.  Movies like this a "Blair Witch" offer us a few inches, then we're left to leave the movie and use our imagination, filling in the blanks.  We're forced to think about what we've just experienced, and I sadly think that's what turns many people off.  Because they have to think.  Apparently, a lot of movie-goers are like infants, needing a bottle full of schlocky CGI effects and big-name stars. Sucks for them, I say. The director wisely does not rely on gore, sex, and effects to get his point across.  Suspense and imagination are what makes these movies work. 

      And then there's the hype.  Also just like "Blair Witch", "Paranormal Activity" was so hyped up, and so successful, that a backlash inevitably followed.  For some reason, when something makes a huge impact on pop culture and society, people want to turn around and knock it off its pedestal.  Maybe it's just me, but I would much rather watch a low-budget, independent film with no money but lots of creativity, instead of the opposite.  A huge budget, big stars, and no creativity whatsoever- which applies unfortunately to most scary movies released these days.  Less is always more, I think.  

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