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Paranormal Activity

November 25, 2009


‘Scuse me, sorry, just having a wee stretch and a yawn here…

Just back from Paranormal Activity, a film that spends an inordinate amount of time in the bedroom of a haunted house (although, actually, it’s one of the house’s inhabitants who is haunted) and, I have to say, I’m feeling a little snoozy.

The current low budget/big box office smash hit, all filmed – of course it was – for $15,000 and being touted as the ‘scariest movie of all time’ (don’t start sighing, you’ll set me off yawning again), arrives in the UK with a mighty reputation and a lot of serious business behind it. It comes over all Blair Witch-y but only really has the handheld aspect in common with that much better movie.

This time, we’re in a suburban house in San Diego, with irritating young couple Katie (Katie Featherstone) and Micah (Micah Sloat), owners of the largest television on the Western seaboard. No, seriously. It’s huge. Anyway, Katie has been having sleepless nights since she was 8 due to bad dreams and indistinct manifestations of, well, let’s say it, paranormal activity, stuff that affects her wherever she lives.

When these events seem to increase in frequency, her significant other decides to video them. This means not only a static camera in the bedroom, which I guess is fair enough, but also, as with Cloverfield, that same camera picked up and run with, even at moments where everyone else in the world would simply not give a stuff about getting this shit down on tape.

So, despite (or is it because of, in horror movies?) protestations and warnings to the contrary, Micah decides to up the ante with the ‘presence’ and cajoles and provokes it via ouija boards and exorcism threats. Things escalate and, hey ho, a conclusion, mostly seen in the trailer, occurs.

All of this, all of it, even the very very very end, is pretty tedious, and at no point do you have any of the tension or unpredicatbility of The Blair Witch Project, or the sheer pandemonium and horrified chaos of, say, [●REC]. Our protagonists don’t really help, although Katie Featherstone is jolly convincing, simply because it’s actually pretty difficult to care; the shocks aren’t particularly shocking, and the pay-off, if you’ve seen any Japanese or Korean ghost stories, is fairly standard fayre.

Although quite a nice idea in many ways, Paranormal Activity shows its hand way too early and the it-could-all-be-in-Katie’s-mind psychological theory is frustratingly sent packing with quite a long stretch still left on the clock. The bedroom scenes are OK, but too similar, and there are way too many unintentional giggles – and one great guffaw – to label this anything but an interesting failure.

Trawling around for info, I came across a review by Chicago Now where the correspondent observed that afterwards some people were “physically shaking”. It may have been laughter. And were folks really, “looking to each other for therapy”? I can’t imagine so. If this is the film that scared America, then I need to check the provenance of a lot of movies that are way, way more frightening.

Now. Bed. Who stole all the covers?

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