John's Horror Banana-nanza Episode Twenty-Nine: Paranormal Activity
Every now and then, at family gatherings, some uncle or aunt of mine will bring up the question. "Which horror movie do you think is the scariest?"
Part of me always wants to say Blair Witch Project, simply because it's safer than telling the truth. The most frightening, nerve jarring thing I've ever seen on a big screen is also one of the most ridiculed and debated movies in horror history, Paranormal Activity.
I think people have a general distate for shakey cam. They also don't like the "cheap" effects, or the poor ending. Or the poor alternate ending. Or the poor alternate, alternate ending. Okay, this movie does not end well. Which in my opinion, is why a sequel was needed so badly, but I'll get into that in another hub.
For me, the fear from Oren Peli's film starts with Katie, who seems so quiet and peaceful. She doesn't seem, at first, to be anything other than ordinary. Her boyfriend Micah is an idiot, but aren't all of us guys idiots in some way?
When Katie tells Micah about the strange feelings she's been having lately, he decides to film them. I'm not exactly sure what he thinks he's going to do if he finds something, and to be honest, I don't think he's exactly sure either. He just wants to see something neat, just like anyone who watches sixty minutes of "Ghost Hunters" hoping to see eight seconds of a chair falling over on it's own.
But we're not dealing with ghosts in this movie, no sir. We have a full fledged demon on our hands. And the fact that this thing is not human already has my skin crawling. I kind of believe in ghosts, and I kind of really believe in demons, although I know better than to do what Micah does and go egging them on. They're best left alone.
However, if he did that, we wouldn't have a movie, now would we?
So Micah taunts the demon, after some very small movements and some lights turning on and off in the house on video. He manages to get a growl on his Digital Voice Recorder, but thinks it's funny. Hey Micah...that's not funny. You should leave...now.
But no. Instead, he gets some baby powder and finds hoof marks leading to the attic, where he finds a burned picture of Katie as a child. There's more to this picture in later movies, but for the sake of this movie, Katie hasn't seen it before.
I'm getting ahead of myself a bit I think. The scariest, creepiest, most unnerving moments in this film are the ones where Katie just stands rigid for hours staring at Micah. There's no cheap special effects here. It's just downright scary. Don't think so? Wait until you wake up and your significant other is in a comatose state staring at you in the dark.
So more stuff that is laughable happens, like doors shutting and the like. Katie gets breathed on, and scares the holy Hell out of me. A picture of the two of them gets smashed in broad daylight right before that, showing that the demon isn't just a night guy. He's there all the time, watching, waiting, taking his time.
After the demon burns a message into a Ouija board that idiot boyfriend Micah leaves laying out, they decode the message to be a girl who was also once haunted, then possesed, by a demon. The case is very similar to Katie's, and she's mortified, as any sane person would be.
So she calls a modern-day ghostbuster from the beginning of the movie to come back and get rid of the demon. He takes one step in the house, and bolts faster than the Flash. Now I'm worried. The tension is unbareable, and it's only going to get worse.
That night, Katie is dragged down the hallway by the demon, who takes a bite. She spends a little while crushing a crucifix into her hand before Micah takes her upstairs to lay around posessed. He throws the crucifix into the fire because, hey, don't wanna be safe or anything.
Katie tells Micah that everything's fine, in a creepy voice. He's like, "Okay. Cool. Let's spend the night here again."
So then Katie wakes up and stares at Micah again for an extended period of time before going downstairs and screaming like a banshee. He runs downstairs, starts yelling, and is then thrown at the camera by demon Katie, who crawls towards the camera and eats it.
Or she comes upstairs alone, and slits her throat.
Or she gets shot by police.
None of these are good, and the last two would destroy any chance at the decent sequel they churned out.
Overall, this movie scared the daylights outta me. The subtleness of the demon's power, Katie being outside in a catatonic state in the middle of the night, those kind of things are scary, and I can't say I've seen another movie that does what this one does as effective or terrifyingly realistic.
I highly suggest this. Highly. The seqeul? Well, that's for another day.