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April 3, 2010

A Second Look at Paranormal Activity

Back in October when it was taking the world by storm, I had this to say about the indie darling Paranormal Activity. Since that relatively early date in its run, the film went on to become the most profitable movie ever made, and also created a strong number of followers and dissenters on both sides of any street.

As my hyperbolic review shows, I immediately bought into this one during the theatrical viewing, and a lot of that experience has stuck with me. I still remember driving home alone from the showing, and checking my rear view mirror often for any irregularities. As I distanced myself from the movie, memories of the discomfort the film produced still hit me around bedtime for nearly a month, but I also found plenty of other people who didn't buy into the film at all, and a lot of their points made sense to me.

Now, it's nearly six months later. I picked up the Paranormal DVD like any The Mike would do, but let it fester on my shelf until today. I wondered what I would think of the relatively gimmicky film in daylight and without a ravenous crowd, and here's a quick rundown of what I found. I suppose there are minor spoilers within, but no plot details will be revealed.
  • The movie has definitely lost a lot of the intrigue that haunted me in that first viewing. I wasn't shivering, my stomach felt fine, and I didn't cover my eyes once. However, I still found myself very interested in the trappings of the story. I've read a lot of people talking about how contrived the story is or how the characters don't really do anything to improve their situation, but I don't really mind those things because the way the film's haunting(?) is handled is crisp and original.
  • Speaking of the characters' lack of action, that's one of the least concerning parts of the film to me. I've always liked to assume that, in evil forces situations like these, there's a predetermined course of action that the characters are locked into - at least to an extent. Recent horror heartthrob The House of the Devil is another film that fits this belief - there are so many choices the characters make where a different action could disrupt the whole plot; and I like to think the characters were "guided" into these choices. Katie's late film smirk in PA shows this blatantly, but I prefer to think that it's not the first act of guidance from the force in the camera's eye.
  • One of my favorite thoughts when this came out occurred when I noted that Micah and Katie were unwed, and I wondered if their cohabitation - an act most religions frown upon - was something that drove the demon. This viewing confirmed what I thought - this undertone doesn't really exist in the movie, it's just something I thought up for fun.
  • Katie Featherstone can scream like a pro. Micah Sloat plays the dickhead well. A lot of people found his character completely unlikable, but I a) think he did have some moments of true caring despite his stupid actions; and b) think it's not unlikely a person could react similarly to him in these situations.
  • A lot of the "money" scares still have effect, even on second try and in daylight. The final moments had my eyes glued to the screen again, and I still was emotionally involved in the moment.
  • I watched the version with the DVD's alternate ending, and while it seems more appropriate for the story I kinda miss the ridiculously in-your-face theatrical ending. Still, this is one of those stories where it's near impossible to find a perfect ending.
  • As a final thought, I don't think Paranormal Activity the film holds up to Paranormal Activity the theatrical experience - but I still found myself completely interested in the simple story that I think is executed near perfectly. I won't call it a reinvention of the horror genre or anything so silly at this point - and in a relatively great year for horror I'd probably rank it behind the likes of Drag Me to Hell, The House of the Devil, Trick 'r Treat, Pontypool and maybe more - but I do still find myself strongly impressed with Oren Peli's independent horror darling.
P.S. - Wanna see something in the same real-human-drama-meets-horror vein as Paranormal Activity that's also awesome? Find a way to see Dawning.

P.P.S. - The Mike (under his Earth name) is totally in the end credits on the DVD as one who requested this movie get to theaters! I'm one of these:


Enbrethiliel said...


I'm totally on board with the idea that there's something about Micah and Katie's cohabitation that drives the haunting.

There's something about "shacking up" that unsettles the psyche--especially in a house that big, with so many empty bedrooms. This story would never have worked with leads who are married and either raising children or thinking seriously about having them someday.

After I first saw this movie, I coined the term "Yuppie Gothic." Not that there seem to be many other movies being made in the same genre . . .

The Mike said...

Good points. There is a definite "ownership" theme with the demon, which is why I thought it at first. Like, the entity has claimed her, and doesn't want anyone interfering.

R.D. Penning said...

I'm still going to stick with the extremely outragous notion that the spirit is Katie's first dog, and he is still extremely loyal, and wants Katie all to himself! remember the footprints? they looked like paw prints haha I will buy the DVD sometime, but I know I am always going to like this movie. It is just so much fun.