2007, Dir. by Oren Peli.
When you tell people you're a fan of horror movies, normal people that is, it's not an easy thing to defend. It's a genre that's known for being as vulgar, shameless, and ridiculous as possible. That's often true, but anyone who could dismiss the entire genre as just that is clearly being obtuse. When I've been asked what it is that makes me enjoy these films, there are many things I've said, but the most common is that I love the concept of good and evil.
Paranormal Activity, the hippest new thing in horror since Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project, doesn't say that's what it's intending to address, but there's no mistaking it. It's the story of a young, unmarried couple who decide to use a video camera to investigate some strange happenings that have seemed to follow the woman, Katie (Katie Featherston), since she was 8 years old. Her live-in boyfriend, Micah (Micah Sloat), is very entertained by the phenomenon, in a brutally skeptical manner. After bringing in a psychic to discuss the possibility of haunting and the differences between ghosts and demons, the camera is set, and the events unfold. The following three weeks are yours to witness, I'm not gonna say a thing more about the plot.
I will say, however, that this movie produced the most tension I've ever felt in a movie theater. I was sick to my stomach throughout most of the film, and found myself repeating a few slightly foul exclamations to myself every time the story advanced to a new evening. At the end, I was physically shaking from what was put on film. There were many endings I considered feasible for the film and the one that happened, despite a slight cheese factor, was more affecting than anything that crossed my mind.
Like I said before, I love the concept of good and evil. And that's because I truly believe in good and evil, it's just that it's hard to see it on a daily basis. Most of the time I live in the middle of the scale, with routines I follow to keep me in my comfort zone. I make mistakes, and I do good things, but most days I'd like to think I average out to be not too different from anyone else. I'm not consistently putting myself in situations that get me out this, especially on the evil side. And, that's where horror movies come in to play.
Why would I say that I enjoy a movie that affects me physically, makes me leery of shadows, and makes me want to not go to sleep tonight? Because, it reminds me that there's another side of the pendulum. It reminds me that there are forces that prevent issues like this from happening on a daily basis. It reminds me of the things I believe in - in Heaven and on Earth - that make me sure I don't have to worry about anything as terrifying as what I've seen on the screen. It reminds me that I can see things that shake my core in movies and come out the other side with the knowledge that I don't need to worry about these things, because the good IS out there.
See Paranormal Activity at your own risk. Like the similar indie horrors I mentioned at the beginning of this review, it's not for everyone. One of the first things I heard when the movie ended was someone saying "That's the worst (expletive) movie I've ever seen." But, I also heard a lot of people trying to find things that comforted them, and laughing about how much the movie affected them. I found myself smiling with my friends, singing loudly while driving home, calling my family to check in, and thrilled to be able to get home and write about the experience while watching my favorite TV show. I did all these things for no reason other than to remind me of what makes me believe in good. And I don't think I'd have done the same had I not let Paranormal Activity get under my skin and mess with my head. That's a fair trade in my book.
But I'm still not sure I'm going to sleep tonight.
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