PARANORMAL ACTIVITY THE REVIEW: INTERNET HYPE STRIKES AGAIN

PA-header

Xiphos’ rating: 1.75 out of 4 Changs

chang-heads copy

I had directed the IT nerds here to download a few movies for next week’s Halloween/End of Deployment shindig. I gave them a couple of suggestions (mainly things I wanted to watch) and sent them off on their mission. I was surprised when the chief nerd managed to find Paranormal Activity. She was very proud of herself for this and I agree, she did a good job.

For various work related reasons I was up late the other night and decided to watch PA because I didn’t want to wait. After finishing the movie and letting it sit for a day or so I decided to do a quick review free of almost all spoilers except at the end and it will be heavily marked. So with that, away we go.

THE GOOD

There was much that was good in PA. I just found it to not be as good as the Internet hype made it out to be, but then again, has anything ever been as good as the geeks make it out to be? Geeks have no sense of proportion and for that matter, good taste. Here’s what I thought was good in PA.

For a low budget movie it was well made. They didn’t rely on jumps to make you squirm, the eeriness that the movie evoked in me was organic to the script. The small amount of special effects used were done well. Below are some specifics I would like to point out.

1. The use of a hand held camera to tell the story. It’s the first time I think this device worked in a movie. It added a nice sense of tension to scenes and it made the last minute of the movie work.

2. The actors were well cast, did good work in their roles and most importantly looked like regular people that could live next door to you.

3. I would like to give special mention to Katie Featherston who played “Katie” (which is a convention in movie writing I find somewhat annoying.) She was very effective in showing the emotional and physical degeneration of her character. Also, she has a great set of juggs which is more important than her acting skills.

4. The writing was decent at least the dialogue was decent.

PA-juggs

THE BAD

Here’s where PA derails for me and knocks it off the geek pedestal down to what I think is its true level, that of a slightly above average horror movie with limited rewatchability.

Side bar here: PA gets mucho respect from me for not being torture porn. It’s obvious that the writer has no more then the usual issues with women and that he’s not actively misogynistic and full of biblical wrath towards the fairer gender which is what torture porn movie writers seem full of.

I will state for the record that I am not the target demographic for this movie. I don’t believe in any form of paranormal garbage. That doesn’t mean I can’t suspend my disbelief and enjoy a well crafted movie about the subject. It just means I’m not inherently disposed to immediately buying into it.

Also I think since I watched this on a computer and alone, it might have taken some energy out of the movie that might have been present if I watched it with an audience. So disclaimers done, lets look at what I think the main problems PA had.

1. The Character’s motivations. They were dumb and frankly they were such a blatant manipulative maneuver that it took me right out of the movie. Look, I understand that in a movie, in order to keep it going, characters have to make stupid choices that a slightly rational person would not make in the real world. I just found it objectionable as to the amount of dumbness involved and the way it was presented. I’m prepared to forgive a lot in a movie if the way they present dopiness is competent. In PA it wasn’t presented well in my opinion.

2. The Male lead. Good lord was this tool a raving numb nut. The actor was good but the character was stupid and abrasive beyond belief.

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*****SPOILER WARNING DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO GO INTO THE MOVIE WITH A PIECE OF INFO THAT COULD LESSEN YOUR ENJOYMENT OF PARANORMAL ACTIVITY******

STILL HERE? OK, SPOILERS AHOY!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

Grabbing your camera every time you hear or see something bizarre going on, and basically being an abusive mate to your girl friend, is a total dick play you putz. Also calling out a demon is not the best thing to do. Obviously the character never studied the field of mathematics called game theory.

****** END OF SPOILERS******

3. The “Psychic” screw this guy. The character was a giant pussy, a jerk off and a liar about “talking” to the dead.

Slight rant here. I fucking hate the “talking to the dead” grifters. Normally my steadfast belief in people getting what they deserve from con men (excluding old people or the truly dumb) is unassailable. It does not apply to the thieves that prey on those still grieving and unable to let go of their deceased love ones. There’s just something so monumentally disgusting about targeting the emotionally defenseless that it makes me violent and ill. Rant over.

4. I know this last one is going to sound dumb but I don’t care. I could not figure out how the hell the two lead characters could afford the house they were living in on one salary and that one is a “day trader”. A two story, 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in San Diego with a pool, hard wood floors and a fire place in 2006 would have been going for around $750 large, minimum. It bugged the hell out of me through the whole movie. How the hell could they afford the mortgage?

That’s it, that’s my review, Mahalo!

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25 responses to “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY THE REVIEW: INTERNET HYPE STRIKES AGAIN”

  1. lord bronco says :

    Well, All in all this is an even-handed and good review-because you point out the good-and the chang index ranks on 4 scale. I have a moratorium on speaking about this flick until after Halloween (personally inflicted).

    I think you did yourself a disservice because you watched the flick on a computer. In your case, this is and probably will be your only option for quite some time, so it’s understandable in your case.

    This is not the case for all us kids running around in America–so you whipper-snappers go watch the darn thing on a matinee for cheap.

    Because the audio on this humdinger is what puts it over the top. If you absolutely have to watch on a computer-that means lights out *with headphones*.

    There are two camps on this movie-people that watch ghost hunters, and those that don’t. It is my guiltiest of pleasures.

    Also, I think the dynamic is that the gal isn’t a complete idiot, she’s just locked up in an abusive relationship. The guy isn’t physically abusive, he’s an utter idiot.

    That’s the point.

    Anyway, the movie has done quite well, and is on track to be the most profitable movie ever made-defeating the saw franchise (knock on Wood), so internet hype notwithstanding–it has been a success.

    Looking at this week and next weeks schedules, there isn’t a better movie playing in cinemas right now.

    So I encourage everybody who hasn’t seen it yet to do anyway despite reviews like this one. Xiphos isn’t nitpicking, but there are several scares in this flick that i think everybody will agree are pretty phenomenal.

  2. lordbronco says :

    and, in that most pathetic of all comebacks ever seen-the Box office comeback (what is this-already devolving to AICN standards?!?)

    he he K-BOOM-check it out

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ia1FPSxXY_CtWNU2djwNxRbGiU3wD9BI8IUG0

    also:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/filmNews/idUSTRE59M0X120091025

    also, this is dopey:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2009/10/paramount-paranormal-activity-sequel.html

  3. xiphos0311 says :

    It makes me happy to see that litle shoe string budget PA with a genuine story stomped all over Saw whatevers torture porn laden ass.

  4. Jarv says :

    “Grabbing your camera every time you hear or see something bizarre going on, and basically being an abusive mate to your girl friend, is a total dick play you putz. Also calling out a demon is not the best thing to do. Obviously the character never studied the field of mathematics called game theory.”

    That could be straight from my brain after watching Diary of The Dead.

  5. Jarv says :

    RE- Dumbness as character motivation.

    That’s something that has gone way overboard. If a character needs to make a moronic call to further the needs of the plot, then the plot needs addressing. If every single character has to remove their brain to further the story, then the story is, to not put too fine a lid on it, horseshit.

    See the second series of Heroes for the ultimate example of what I mean.

  6. Jarv says :

    The best ghost hunting thing ever was a mockumentary done by the BBC about 20 years ago called (I think) Ghostwatch. As with the Blair Witch Project etc, they didn’t mention a word about it being faked and used actual newsreaders for the “seance”.

    The ghost itself was a fucking superb premise- some loser who hung himself in a locked room with his cat, which as it couldn’t get out partially devoured him.

    It was scary stuff- with a brilliant fake out in it. If you can find it do so.

  7. ThereWolf says :

    Jarv’s bang on with Ghostwatch. I found it on YouTube a couple of days ago and am planning to watch it on Halloween. Hilariously, the BBC received a ton of complaints from the parents of traumatised kiddywinks who had stayed up to watch their favourite childrens’ TV presenters, but had probably not expected to see them get violently assaulted by a poltergeist! Happy days…

    Good stuff, Xi. PA’s not out in the UK yet but I’ll have a look when it is. Did you see [REC]? The wobbly-cam worked very well in that.

  8. ThereWolf says :

    Link to Ghostwatch on YouTube:

    It’s in 10 parts, I think.

  9. xiphos0311 says :

    Jarv,

    the characters in PA make some incredibly dumb decsions in order to further the plot. They make amazingly dumb choices that any reasonable or for that matter unreasonable people would not.

    Here’s another nit pick I admit but I just thought of it, but there is a couple of scenes where both characters are yelling thier heads off in teh early morning hours but nobody around them called the cops? The house is in a development and the house are stacked right on top of one another. There’s no way a nosy neighbor doesn’t get involved.

  10. xiphos0311 says :

    Wolf,

    {Rec} I only saw it once so I might be confusing it with the remake, which I only saw once, but didn’t they put the camera down a few times?

    If not then yes {Rec} did use the camera to good effect.

  11. Jarv says :

    Agree- that shit is just dim.

    Rec- They don’t put the camera down- but they have a fucking good reason for holding on to it- there’s one scene in particular where he’s using the infra-red of the camera to direct her as she can’t see shit.

  12. xiphos0311 says :

    Jarv,

    yep pretty dim alright..

    Thanks for clarifying my memory. I watched Rec and Quaratine back to back so they kind of bleed into each other. Minus the Spanish of course.

  13. Bartleby says :

    I’m with Bronco and Xi. See, perfectly agreeable. I thought the movie was very effective…and I enjoyed it. It was entirely too effective at making MEEKAH (Micah but his gal keeps saying it off) an UBER-DOUCHE.

    I know it would have changed the budget and intent, but I wanted a demon-fighter, damnit! Best possible ending: The couple are at wits end, it’s the morning after she’s been bit and just as they are giving up….doorbell rings, in step Sam and Dean and Dean cock punches Meeka.

  14. Bartleby says :

    Xi which ending you see? I saw the one where the cops come at end…

  15. koutchboom says :

    Getting made about how he grabs the camera to further the plot? Seems like a stupid grip. I mean its a stupid horror film, how many times did you see someone RUN INTO a building someone just got killed to death in, in any other horror film? I found everything he did with the camera fine. He only RUNS off with the camera like once. When there was real danger he didn’t grab the camera.

    As for the guy being a douche I didn’t think so, no more so then any other guy. I mean he didn’t believe in ghost/demons really and probably didn’t think anything too bad could happen.

    As for the house, thats a good point. I’ve got no idea how much money a day trader makes. But it probably meant mommy and daddy were giving her some money and probably would have cared more and have shown up or something.

    I do think watching this alone on your computer would work fine, if you got some nice as Bose headphones, otherwise yeah it probably would have sucked. You needed something with some good bass.

  16. koutchboom says :

    Everyone’s problem with the guy, doesn’t make sense? I mean what did you expect for him to be? A total pussy? It wasn’t like he was beating his girlfriend, he gave her comfort when she needed it. He was just a geek with a new toy, most guys that have long time girlfriends when they get a new toy are pretty fucking annoying with it. Plus she never told him about her past, kind of a big deal.

    Also the whole Demon/love/jealousy thing, he probably wanted to prove that he could take the demon. This movie was awesome and worked, check it in a packed theater (luckily the audience I saw it with was fine, though I’ve heard complaints). I saw it Midnight the first night it played here, so I saw it with the people THAT wanted to see it and have a good time. Its a scary movie, you either buy into or you don’t and pick it apart.

  17. koutchboom says :

    As for using the actors/actresses real names???? Who fucking cares? Its not like your seeing Jack Nicholson on screen and his name is Jack? I had no idea who these people were, so what they were called didn’t mean anything.

  18. Xiphos says :

    jonah I saw what I believe is the theatrical ending no police. I’ve read about the cop ending and I think that one sounds better. Although both ar sort of easy to see coming.

    Jonah I don’t think I fall into the effective catagory anymore. The more I discuss PA the more I begin to dislike it. Its really not anywhere near as well made as the internet nerds make it out to be.

  19. koutchboom says :

    You know when you say internet nerds, you are talking about yourself. Don’t act like your above nerddome.

    Also I don’t think anyone was talking about it being well made? Just effective. I think reviews of this movie should come down to worked/didn’t work. Otherwise your just spinning your wheels one way or another.

  20. Bartleby says :

    and that’s fine XI. I didn’t think it was a work of art, but I thought for a single viewing it worked in the way it was supposed to. I don’t think it was shoddily made and it used the tools well. I guess I’ve learned to segregate myself from the hype. I don’t believe any of it anymore, or just don’t think it applies to me. I so often love stuff everyone else hates.

    For example, Im sure I’m probably one of the few here that holds that Blair Witch Project is a better movie. Let the flaming begin!

  21. Xiphos says :

    Jonah. I don’t think. on the technical level, PA is badlly made. All the technical “film” stuff was well done. Where it has lost me, upon on further review, is the way they presented the ideas. The more I think about it the more I start to not like it. Like I said above I am glad that it kick Saw 96 right in the nuts and I’m glad that PA didn’t go for the torture porn route.

    I’m pretty much immuned to hype. I only go to Twitch, your place, here and Bale none of those places are hype factories. I was more reacting to some of the comments I saw on The Texas fat man’s joint and TV commercials which made me laugh even before I saw the movie. The Geeks nerds have no sense of proportion.

    Blair Witch project was a nice movie and I would agree it probably is the better one. The BWP and PA both share many of the same issues but maybe becasue BWP was first and had a bigger scope it worked better. That last shot in the BWP was creepy but now that I think about it PA kind of echoed that ending hard in the theatrical cut.

  22. ThereWolf says :

    [REC] – I think they do switch the camera off and put it down. But the little girl messes with it and accidentally switches it back on. Then we’re back into the action. Quite clever, I thought. Gets around the notion you would have to put the camera down in that situation.

  23. kloipy says :

    Thank you Xi! Finally someone gives this a less than stellar review. I’m so sick of getting my expectations up and then being disappointed. Re Zombieland and Trick r Treat

  24. Xiphos says :

    Kliopy I kind of liked PA when I saw but wasn’t blown away by it. Since then PA has slid down for me over the last few days talking about it. The more I discuss it the more I begin to think what’s the fuss about?

    Here’s a link to a review that Continentalops did. Now there is a review by a cat that REALLY didn’t like the movie.

    http://tinyurl.com/yldqklu

    I was let down a bit by Zombieland it wasn’t bad or anything it just sort there to me. It was another movie that I had the ITs download and watch.

  25. kloipy says :

    Xi, I feel the same way about Zombieland as you. I think part of the fuss around PA is the fact that it’s the only newer horror movie that isn’t a remake or a SAW movie

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