Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Paranormal Activity" goes to 11 on the terror dial

Just returned from Ann Arbor and the midnight showing of "Paranormal Activity." It was a packed house and it was a good thing we got in line an hour and a half early. Spent the time chatting with some very nice college students (and fellow nerds) in front of us -- shockingly, one member of their party doesn't like Nathan Fillion or Neil Patrick Harris. We agreed to disagree.

Anyway, here's my three word review of "Paranormal Activity." You know how everyone's been saying it's scary. Guess what?

It's fucking scary!

That's why I'm up at 2:40 in the morning writing this -- there's no way I'm going to sleep after seeing that damn thing. And when I say "damn thing," I mean really well-crafted movie that made the most out of a very small budget and some very modest ambitions. It's an old-fashioned ghost story told with no gore and no monsters yet it prays exceptionally well upon some very basic and very powerful fears.

The basic story centers on a young couple who begin to experience odd happenings in their house and decide to set up a video camera at night to see what's going on. And then, well, things get bad. The scares start off slow but 20 minutes into it, you're already starting to freak out Pavlov-style when the lights go out and the night vision comes on.

The film moves quickly and there's very little release in the tension. It simply builds and builds (with some pretty funny moments early on) until you just can't take it anymore. As with any scary story, there are a few moments of "just turn on the goddamn lights" but for the most part, there aren't any of those usual stretches of credibility that doom so many suspense stories. This is simply a smart, genuinely scary movie.

I've mentioned before in this blog how much I don't like being frightened and true to form, I wussed out completely by the end, covering my eyes for the last few minutes and watching only half the screen -- the non-scary half of the screen. While I sort of regret not actually seeing the final pay off (okay, not really), I did hear it, and this movie uses audio so well I still got chills just from the sounds of what was happening. And I got to see my husband completely freak out and just about crawl under his seat, which was kind of awesome given this is the same man who watches horror movies the way I watch "Love, Actually" when I'm PMS-y, which is to say, a lot. And he wasn't the only one freaking out -- half the theater screamed including the burly frat guys behind us who lofted cries of "oh no" and "holy shit" into the ether. People may have wet themselves. I didn't stick around to ask.

In short, if you like to be scared, go see this movie. My husband the expert says it's the scariest movie he's ever seen. As for me, it's the scariest movie I've ever heard while covering my eyes and wishing it was over. I mean that in the best possible way.

It's nearly 3 a.m. Time for this scaredy-pants to look at pictures of fluffy kittens and puppies until sunrise.


LadyGaga said...

Is that movie based on actual accounts of paranormal activity from people who volunteered to do case studies? O.o

nerdsalad (geo) said...

Wow, I am JUST like you when I am coerced into going to see a scary movie. I close my eyes to the point where you can see a small corner of the screen and go from there. I have to watch the Saw movies like that too. I had interest in seeing this,mainly because I am an independent film junkie, but perhaps I will wait until it is out on DVD so I can watch on my own terms. :)

Me said...


No, it's just a fictional movie based on nothing but some creative minds.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty much how I watched "the Ring", except alone, at home. Dumb, very dumb. Had a hell of a time sleeping for a long time after that one.

Jean said...

Anon, I did that with Alien, just before Aliens came out. (and yes I know I was late to _that_ party :)) I was never so thankful to leave a theater in the middle of the afternoon after I saw Aliens - a bright sun was more than a little welcome! Both are scary good!

Sara Jo said...

Will Animals with Light Sabers make you feel better?