MOVIE: Paranormal Activity (2007)

paranormalactivityAfter weeks of debating whether or not I should drag my old lady arse to a midnight screening of this movie, the movie went and did me the huge favor of releasing itself nationwide in normal movie-watching hours.   Thank you.  Thank you so very much, movie.  Because midnight screenings?  Good lord.  Just not happening anymore.  Nooooot happening.

So a week or so ago, at the safe-from-ghosts-in-the-daylight hour of 4:30pm, I bought myself a ticket and some popcorn, snuggled into a cozy seat in my local theater, and prepared to be scared to death.

Except, not really, of course.  I mean, I’d read enough reviews of this movie declaring it to be “even scarier!” than The Blair Witch Project to know this movie wasn’t going to scare me at all.  When all the reviewers say something is the scariest movie EVER (!!), I know I’m in for two hours of pure unscary disappointment.  So, for once, FOR ONCE, I went into a majorly-hyped movie with my expectations in the metaphoric crapper.

And guess what!  Keeping your expectations lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut is absolutely the way to go!  Because, as it turned out, this movie totally did not suck!  Oh frabjous day!

In fact, this movie ended up not-sucking so much I exited the theater however-many-minutes later pretty pleased.  And you know what the secret is?  As it turns out, the secret to making an unsucky scary movie is having no budget whatsoever.   This movie was so low-budget it didn’t have enough money to suck.  There wasn’t enough money for gore.  There wasn’t enough money for showing us creatures or spooks or ghosts or anything.  There just wasn’t enough money for special effects in general.  And special effects are, in my opinion, what drain the scary right out of almost every scary movie made these days.  You start dumping in the elaborate mutilations and gore, the elaborate creatures, the elaborate show-me-everythings!, and what you end up with is a movie that leaves nothing whatsoever left to the imagination.  There’s absolutely nothing scarier than not having a clue as to what’s coming your way.  Just leaving it to your brain work out all the specs.  It’s what made Blair Witch scary.  And it’s what makes Paranormal Activity scary too.

That said, this movie had an unfortunate number of flaws.  Flaws that, had they only sent me the script first, I could’ve fixed for them in FIVE SECONDS FLAT.  When — WHEN?! — will you people ever learn?  TO SEND ME THE SCRIPT FIRST?  Gah.  But more on that in a sec.

Just in case you haven’t heard anything about this one yet, it’s about a young couple living in San Diego, Katie and Micah, who buy a video camera and set it up in their bedroom after Katie insists she/they are being haunted.  Micah doesn’t believe her, of course — what sane person would?  But he loves her, so he humors her.  And then he starts watching the footage — whoa! — and it all kinda goes downhill for them both from there.

That’s all I’ll tell you in regards to the plot, and I highly recommend NOT watching the trailer for this movie before you go see it, either.  The trailer has some of the spookiest moments in it, and discombobulated in that trailer, they simply aren’t scary at all.   Having seen them before, then, they completely failed to surprise me in the film; it was more distracting than anything else to have them finally dropped into context.  I think if I’d never seen those moments before, they might’ve truly given me a lovely chill.  Instead, meh, not so much.

So, in lieu of more storytelling, allow me rather to detail for you the three biggest problems I had with this movie.  I would not consider any of these major plot-wrecking “spoilers,” but if you are cautious about such things, you can skip the rest of this review and wait to read it until after you’ve seen the film yourself.

1.  Katie’s Foot.  Ooh, this one really bugged me.  Every night, Katie and Micah get into bed, covered only by a sheet.  And every night, Katie leaves one of her bare feet sticking out from under the covers.  EVERY NIGHT.  Now, tell me this:  if you think you’re being haunted by a ghost or demon who creeps into your bedroom at night and breathes on your neck, would you EVER — EVER!! — leave your foot sticking out of the covers?  No, you would not.  I’m telling you right now, YOU. WOULD. NOT.

In fact, had it been me in that situation, I would not only have made sure every limb was safely tucked in, I would’ve been wearing footie-goddamn-pajamas to boot, and I don’t care if it’s summer in Southern California at the time.  “Leave no inch of skin unshielded from demon breath” — it’s my motto in life, and it’s gotten me this far for a reason, people.  Dear Katie, an hour into this movie, I could not help but think to myself you were totally asking for everything you got leaving that foot sticking out.  And that goes double for when the ghost thing finally grabs your toes and pulls you right out of bed onto your ass, kerPLUNK.

2.  The DEMON’S Foot.  Oh man!  You guys were doing AWESOME with the use-your-imagination thing until the stupid footprints part!  Then you had to go and blow all the mystery by revealing the demon to be. . . a three-toed sloth!  There is, quite frankly, nothing less scary than a three-toed sloth.  Not even snails are less scary than three-toed sloths.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at this thing.  Get out, you crazy adorable munchkin!  Give us a kiss.

3.  The Very, Very Last Moment of This Movie.  Without giving away anything about what happens, I’ll just say this movie needed to end about ten seconds before it actually ended, and that final stare into the camera followed by the lurching CGI effect — gah — was just CRAP.  CRAP!  What were you thinking?  Bad enough with the three-toed sloth!  You fools, you fools!

But honestly?  Those are three pretty small things in a full-length movie.  There were parts of the film that got a little slow and repetitive, especially early on, and there were whole chunks I would’ve written completely differently myself (a little silly, a little lacking in common sense, a little cliché).  Overall, though, I was pretty pleased with this one.  And I’m really looking forward to seeing a second time, when I’ll be a little less on guard for the crap, and a little more relaxed about simply enjoying what’s playing out on-screen.  Recommended!

[Prequeue me at Netflix | Watch trailer (except, don’t)]

Genre:  Horror, Ghosts
Cast:  Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston, Michael Bayouth

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21 Responses to “MOVIE: Paranormal Activity (2007)”

  1. megwood Says:

    By the way, the date on this movie is correct — it was made in 2007 and shown in film festivals when it first came out. It was released several weeks ago for the first time in theaters, but only in select theaters and only at midnight showings. It wasn’t until about 10 days ago that it got an official nation-wide release. Just in case you were wondering.

  2. p. Says:

    i really enjoyed your review. really funny. thanks

  3. Final Girl Says:

    You should seek out articles describing the other two endings, both of which would have been better than what made it to theaters. That’s what happens when you get major studio backing, I guess…

    I hadn’t seen the trailer so everything was new to my eyeballs. It’s not a perfect movie, but I really liked it and found it quite scary.

    And I agree with you- less is more.

  4. megwood Says:

    Curses, studio-backed altered endings! I didn’t realize there had been a different finale (two, even!). I hope when they release it on DVD, they put one or both of the other two options on there so we can see them.

    Just found a description of the other endings here, for those who are interested: (doy, this contains spoilers, yo).

    I’m not sure which of the two would’ve worked better for me (I actually think a combination of both would’ve been perfect), but either one would’ve been a MASSIVE improvement on the one that ended up sticking. I hate it when that happens! Foo.

  5. Sarah Says:

    I sleep with a foot outside the covers. It’s for temperature regulation. And to be fashionable.

  6. megwood Says:

    Well then, Fobes, may you never be haunted by a demon. And I mean that sincerely, because the world needs as many geeks as it can hold onto.

  7. Liz Says:

    I can’t imagine leaving my feet uncovered in bed! Even in summer, I have to at least put them under a sheet! I’m with Meg – I’d go crazy seeing someone in a movie about a haunted bedroom going to sleep with one foot outside the covers! And speaking of Meg: dare I say it? She’s ba-a-a-ack!

  8. Trip Says:

    This is all so weird, because I sleep with only my one foot covered.

  9. megwood Says:

    I think this probably means there are two types of people: the type who had traumatic monster nightmares as a child and the type who did not.

  10. Liz Says:

    I think you’re right. As for me, I had traumatic monster stories told to me before bed, so I still can’t “bear” the thought of “baring” my foot!

  11. alisaj29 Says:

    My hubby calls me Cocoon Lady because I gather all of my blanket around me, and then tuck it under me completely, so that there is just my head showing.

  12. megwood Says:

    Alisa will be safe from all monsters, except for brain suckers.

  13. alisaj29 Says:

    When I was a kid I mastered the art of pulling the blankets over your head and leaving only an airhole to be able to breath fresh air. So I’m safe. LOL 🙂

  14. Caitlin Says:

    Couldn’t agree more with this! Less effects = better horror movie. There is a reason that majority of the really scary horror movies were made before CG creatures/gore…

  15. Leslie Says:

    You people are crazy! It’s not whether or not parts of your body are uncovered, it’s making sure no part hangs over the edge of the mattress.

  16. lynne Says:

    Let me begin by saying that my comment is sincere. Two days before seeing this movie I noticed prints left on the bathmat at a relative’s home where I was visiting. I kid you not, when I saw these prints, I got a strong feeling that I was looking at creature prints. The only animals in the house are a chuwawa and a small cat. I found no reasonable explaination for these prints and considered the idea of an interdimentional visitor. Two days later I saw the movie and the footprints looked EXACTLY like the ones I had seen left on the rug. I would like to know where the idea came from to use this footprint in the movie. Do they know something we don’t know??

  17. megwood Says:

    You too have been haunted by the dreaded undead three-toed sloth! Ooga booga!!

  18. lynne Says:

    megwood, easy for you to laugh at but that does’nt answer the question. Direct experience is the only truth we have and I am sharing a direct experience with you’all. I believe that some people see glimpses of a hidden reality and when we share our experience we are teased and dismissed as having an overactive imagination. After leaving my comment yesterday, I did a little research on paranormal footprints and found that most of the historical evidence of non-human activity describes bipedal creatures with three digits where the hands and feet would be. I did not know this when I observed the prints on the bathroom rug and I have never seen such a thing before. But I will say that my life experiences are usually followed by explaination. In other words I usually have something odd happen and shortly after, I have an experience that is unquestionably connected to the previous experience confirming it’s validity. The very day that I saw the footprints I was told about the new movie. I haven’t had TV for a couple months so I have missed any advertizements. When I heard about the movie(no details), I decided that I would go to a matinee. I never do that. I believe that I was compelled to see the footprint match.

  19. megwood Says:

    Lynne, sorry if I sounded flip! I just think my three-toed sloth joke is super funny (and yes, I laugh at my OWN JOKES — I am that lame!).

    It should be noted here that I completely believe in ghosts. I have actually seen a ghost. Demons, I’m far less sold on, in part because I don’t believe in Hell (or Heaven, for that matter), and I’m not sure what other origin stories demons are supposed to have. I’ll be looking THAT up immediately, though — if I find anything interesting, I’ll let you know!

    I suspect that the footprints you saw have a very reasonable explanation, but obviously, there’s no way to know for sure what was responsible for leaving them. My mind’s completely open on that one, my friend.

  20. Melissa Says:

    Actually, to be Frank with you, a three towed poltergeist isn’t one who wants to be messed with. It’s not as you jokingly say, “three-toed sloth”. The concept of the movie is actually real in society today. These kind of events do happen. Execpt, some spirits don’t usually cause harm our connect to people (such as katie) and make them kill someone it doesn’t like or just random. Though, Micah did get what he was coming for. Taunting such an evil spirit as that was not a very smart move. ESP for bringing out the board. That let the demon into the house and allowed it enough energy to do more harm and more things. (Such as actually grab katie and drag her away, bite her, ext) They get stronger by fear. And when they we’re fighting it was more then enough able to get inside her. And sooo much more. 🙂

  21. Melissa Says:

    Also, I do like how the movie had less effects. It made it more realistic. To much gore and to much effects make it more scary, yes. But not enough to convience people and scare to the point like, “wow… that can actually happen.” cause we all know the stupid effects might get to us, but we know most horror movies are fake. But this can truely happen and it has as i said before.

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