Concept4Banner1024 The Plural of Apocalypse: Paranormal Activity: Why what's in your bed might be scarier than what's under it...

 Monday, October 19, 2009

Paranormal Activity: Why what's in your bed might be scarier than what's under it...

First things first: Paranormal Activity (PA) is NOT scary, at least in my opinion. But as far as horror goes, it fits the bill. I found this movie to be creepy, unsettling, and in some ways horrific. Terrifying? Not so much. There are also some absolutely hilarious parts, so in the tradition of quality horror, there is enough humor to keep you from having nightmares.

Secondly: Katie looks like a normal woman. Which is thrilling! Really, ladies if you want to go see a movie with a normal looking woman in it apparently you have to see low budget horror movies. Katie, thank you for representing the size 8-12 crowd! WE LOVE YOU!

My favorite horror movies are the ones where less is seen and more is heard. There is nothing quite as unsettling as hearing footsteps or whispers from another room, but not knowing if anything is really there. This film excels at keeping whatever is harassing them a secret. In the end we don’t even really know what it looks like; we only ever really see the results of what it has done.

The run down: The premise is this: Katie and Micah are a young couple who have recently moved in together. Where the film picks up is several days/occurrences into their paranormal experience. Micah buys a camera with the intention of dispelling Katie’s fears, and showing her it’s nothing to be scared of. Micah also seems to fancy himself a bit of an amateur film maker and instead of just filming at night, starts filming everything. And so it begins. The first night we don’t see much, and the next day a psychic comes to the house to help them find their ghosts. This is a major turning point in the movie, and it happens barely 15 minutes in: there are no ghosts, Katie has a demon. A demon that has been with her since she was a little girl. A demon that may have set her childhood home on fire destroying everything. A demon that isn’t going away on its own, a demon that feeds on anger and fear. The psychic can’t offer any help, but gives them the # of a demonologist and warns them not to provoke the demon, because they really don’t know what they are dealing with. Demons don’t fuck around, people! Katie wants to call the demonologist and get it taken care of; Micah is convinced they can deal with it on their own. Katie clearly needs to grow a spine.

What happens over the next 20 days is an exercise in escalation and destruction. We get to witness not only the escalating of the activity, but the disintegration of Micah and Katie’s relationship. The problem really in all of this is Micah. See Micah doesn’t listen to the girl who’s dealt with the demon for 20 odd years. Micah doesn’t respect her wishes, constantly lies to her, doesn’t listen to sound advice and is convinced (in what I can only call a typical male fashion) that he alone can fix this problem. He doesn’t need anyone’s help, he is the man of the house, he doesn’t need directions, they aren’t lost!!

And so it goes, we never leave the house (we do go outside, but it’s the yard), we never see the other parts of their lives, we see nothing but what goes on in their home. This can lead to an almost claustrophobic feeling, but it can also help you understand the trapped feeling they were feeling. This movie doesn’t use cheap thrills (not cats jumping out), but it also doesn’t abuse effects (FOR ONCE!). We see what happens when they aren’t in the house, we see what happens when they sleep, and we see their reactions to these things.

In contrast we see the damage that Micah is causing. We see the sleep deprivation, we can hear the desperation in Katie’s voice, and the lines of who the real monster in this movie is are very much blurred. A few days of reflection on this movie has left me wondering if Katie’s demon was less a harmful presence and was more so trying to keep her safe from what it perceived as a threat. In the end though I think it could be argued that Katie is twice a victim, first of a demonic presence and secondly of a well meaning boyfriend who never takes the time to see what he’s done. In a way each of these forces was trying to do what they thought was best for Katie, without ever really seeing what she wanted. Katie is terrorized not only by this demon, but by the boyfriend who thinks he is trying to help her.

I know I’m getting all philosophical on your asses regarding this movie, but the more I think about it, the less I am left with images of slamming doors and swinging chandeliers and the more I am left feeling terrible for Katie. I guess in some ways she represents how a lot of women (and also men) feel about living in this world. You have a lot of people telling you what’s best for you, pulling you in different directions, when you are never really given the chance to decide what you really want for yourself. In the end if you don’t fight against these sorts of forces, you inevitably end up becoming one of them.

Another theme that I felt riding through it is the notion of “fixing it.” We live in a world where pretty much all of us believe that with a few deft strokes of the keys we can Wikipedia or Google our way to answers to fix our problems, we take pills to fix what ails us, and if we can’t fix an item we just replace it. We live in a “fix it” society, and what’s worse, is we are so focused on fixing problems on our own that we see weakness in asking for help. Micah’s fatal flaw is this; he is blind to what anyone else says or thinks, he is always right. He even at one point states something to the effect of: “this thing is in MY house, and I’m going to kick its ass out of here.” The arrogance of a statement like this is overwhelming; it’s a demonic presence not a stray raccoon. Pride does not fix anything.
The ending of this movie is abrupt. There are no credits, just a final image and a statement. This movie is so full of WTF moments, they could have called it: Paranormal Activity: The WHAT THE FUCK file. The writer/director of this movie filmed it in his house on nearly no budget. He did a damn fine job. I hear his next project involves another found footage film, only this one takes place in the wilds around Area 51. I will be seeing this movie, unless the bigger budget puts too much CG-bullshit in the movie. (cos the lack of CG-Bullshit is what was incredibly attractive about this film).

My only real bone to pick with this movie is two things: #1 they never even discuss contacting a priest or other member of the clergy. Everyone knows when demons are involved you go to the Catholics! Or you at least get some holy water, a cross and a bible. Micah continually insists that if they go to outside sources it might piss the demon off even more, and he shows Katie pictures of what happens when you piss the demon off more. Still, they could have taken precautions, which leads to my #2 issue: Salt. Where’s the salt Micah??? Micah does all this interweb research but never once does he come up with solutions regarding treating the demonic presence. Salt, holy water, crosses, blessed objects, prayers, there are a million ways to “fight demons” and they are all on the interweb. Micah, your google-fu is weak.

I guess in the end I will say this: This is a good movie; it’s not going to make you run screaming out of the theater (it may, I might just be jaded), but it will linger in your psyche for long after it ends. There is terror and horror on two levels, the seen and the unseen, and both are equally disturbing. It was worth every cent of the $9.50 I spent, and the ghetto assed mother fuckers I sat through the movie with (nothing like people yelling at the screen). It is not a movie I would buy because I think it’s the sort of movie that the more you see the less it has meaning, also a little screen is not going to give you the sense of horror you get from the big screen effect (I had the same feeling about the Blair Witch Project, and I have tried to watch it on TV with it having less than half the effect it had on me in the theater). It’s a good movie, it’s a solid movie. If you like horror movies you’ll probably dig this. If you like indie movies that work on many levels and don’t mind being creeped out, this is really for you.