Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Paranormal Activity = The Blair Witch Project in 10 Years

Viral ad campaign, check; creepy subject matter; check, unknown filmmaker creating something special on a shoestring budget, check; I am talking about the famed The Blair Witch Project, right? Well, not this time. While 2009 did mark the 10th anniversary of the independent masterpiece, it is Paranormal Activity that took the world by storm following much of the same rules made famous a decade ago. This film, reportedly made for roughly $18,000 by writer/director/producer/editor Oren Peli, struck fear in the hearts of viewers and eventually outshined some big-budget competition at the box office.

The premise of the story is typical to many ghost stories or paranormal themed movies that frequent the big screen. A young couple begins experiencing strange occurrences in their house after moving in together. Not long after the activity begins, Katie (one of the two main characters) reveals that she has experienced some of the same happenings before as a child. Excited by the possibility of discovering what is happening and determined to find proof Micah (the boyfriend) purchases a video camera to record the happenings to try to figure out what is going on. Over the course of the next few weeks, he gets all of the proof he needs and more.

In all, the film does a great job at setting mood and a sense of unease while watching it. It may not be the scariest movie ever made, but there were plenty of sequences that got the blood flowing. However, there are some structural parts to the movie that will be caught by experienced members of the paranormal field and leave them scratching their heads. Most of these parts centered around the psychic and the referenced demonologist (which ironically seems to be the only one on the internet).

The rules stated by the psychic were at least valid and should be followed when one suspects that they have some type of demonic manifestation taking place. These rules are:

1. Do not run from the house, the spirit will probably follow.
2. The spirit feeds off negative energy (anger, fear, etc).
3. Do not do anything to engage the demonic entity (like buy an OUIJA Board)

While these are valid rules, this is a movie and the actors had to break one or all of them for the sake of the movie. In reality, these rules are probably ignored the majority of the time, helping add to the aura contained within the film. After all, the best horror movies are the ones that can eat into our psyche and present things in a manner that would remind the viewer that these events can happen any day, anywhere.

Like mentioned earlier, many of the video characteristics were reminiscent of those used in The Blair Witch Project with the shaky camera work and the home video feel. Yet, this recording is much more stable than the previously mentioned film and the idea really works on a conceptual level. The film felt authentic throughout, even in the periods that initially felt somewhat slow. The chemistry between the main characters was amazing, and it really felt like these were home videos and these people were actually dealing with a haunting.

To me, that realistic feel is why Paranormal Activity struck a cord with the masses. It plays on the deep-seated fears that many people have when they enter the nether region of a dreamscape. More importantly, it is something that could be happening all around you everyday. Because the movie has all of the right elements, Paranormal Activity will be talked about for a long time and in 10 years; we should be celebrating the 10th anniversary of another breakthrough film in the realm of the unexplained.

vote it up!

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