Friday Night Movies – Paranormal Activity

Bicker, sleep, scare, repeat

Paranormal Activity blossomed from a tiny Film Festival entry into a nationwide release over a span of some two years.  Cool for filmmaker Oren Peli who made the thing with a 7 day shooting schedule and a shoestring budget.  Maybe not so great for the rest of us.

Make no mistake, Paranormal Activity is scary.  If you’re a fan of the jump scare, you’ll love it.  I also have to give credit to leads Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston, who didn’t really have a script, only a general sense of what was supposed to happen in each scene.  Their dialogue has a pretty nice flow even though they mostly repeat the same stuff over and over (not their fault) throughout the film.

The entire film is a Blair Witch-ish fictional “found film” about the haunting of Katie.  Micah and Katie live together in San Diego and have been having some issues with mild bumps in the night.  When they call on a psychic for an evaluation it comes out that Katie has had this issue before.  This isn’t a haunted house, it’s a haunted person.  Micah isn’t convinced that there’s anything to really worry about and it’s his antics with filming the house and happenings that make up that “found film”.

Paranormal Activity, though legitimately filled with scary bits, falls victim to two fatal flaws that keep the scares from sticking to you for more than a few minutes after the film ends.

First, it telegraphs every single scary part.  Most of the frightening stuff takes place at night while the camera watches the couple sleep.  It speeds through the night until something is going to happen, then slows back to normal speed.  Every time.  It’s not a matter of when something is going to happen, it’s just a matter of what.  I can only imagine how scary it might have been if I didn’t know exactly when it was coming.

Second – and far more egregious – most of the movie is deadly boring.  Everything in between the brief telegraphed jump scares is repetetive to the point of catatonia.  Micah and Katie banter, Micah and Katie argue in the bathroom, Micah and Katie go to sleep, Micah and Katie get scared.  Over and over and over and over.  By the end I was surprised that the paranormal entity didn’t just wander away out of boredom with the sheer tediousness of it all.

This isn’t the kind of movie I feel wasted my time, but it certainly isn’t worth seeing again and I don’t really recommend it to anyone but fans of the cheap jump scare.  Its journey from tiny Indie to fairly major success is pretty cool, but that doesn’t make it a good movie.  Only see it if you’re in the mood for some easy scares.

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