Monday, November 9, 2009

the parahandy experience.

Everyone and their dog seems to have an opinion on Paranormal Activity right now with camps split between 'it's class' or 'it's pants' - and with a tragic few more interested in the size/shape of the lead actresses arse.

Yes, I did say actress because, contrary to what some sad individuals on IMDB think, it's not real.

The film I mean, I'm assuming the arse is.

Reportedly made for just $11,000 over a period of seven days, does scarily monikered Oren Peli's debut feature live up to the horrible hype or is it just some kind of phantom menace?

Welcome to fright night!

Paranormal Activity (2007).
Dir: Oren Peli.
With Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Ashley Palmer and Amber Armstrong.

What happens when I sleep?
farting mainly.

Young, upwardly mobile (and sickeningly loved up) couple Katie (shelf shouldered, trailer park Katie Perry-alike Featherston) and Micah (rat toothed, bowl headed Sloat) have recently moved into a rather palatial house together after dating steadily for a few years.

Hang on, it's no' one o' them lassies films is it?

Luckily the paint isn't even dry on the walls before the couple begin to experience strange paranormal type bangs and crashes around the house, you know the score; lights blinking on and off, doors slamming, toilets flushing etc.

Micah, like any normal guy rushes out and buys a huge, fuck off camera in the hope of:

A. Getting some evidence of the spook on camera

and more importantly

B. Filming Katie with her kit off.

"I kissed a girl then was damned to Hell".

It turns out that poor Katie is no stranger to world of the strange, having had the willies put up her for the first time as an podgy ickle eight year old, when she had a shadowy night time visitor who enjoyed nothing more than scaring the shite out of her and her wee sister.

This came to an end tho' when the family home mysteriously burned to the ground.


Ever since then, the mysterious 'presence' has followed chisel chinned Katie wherever she goes, making itself known by standing over her bed and breathing heavily.

A bit like your dad used to do to you when drunk.

Obviously Micah is oh so slightly annoyed that she never told him any of this before they moved in together but soon comes to see the possible haunting as a new hobby, taking over from his usual masturbation based, Pot Noodle sessions in front of his big teevee whilst watching Pimp My Mooth on MTV, which can only be a good thing really.

"I'm Katie, come sleep in mah bed".

Katie, getting slowly more shot to fuck as the film progresses (you can tell because her shorts keep getting tinier and tinier) persuades Micah to let her invite an eminent ghost-science type, Dr. Jeff Psychic (Bayouth from Wristcutters: A Love Story) around to check all this strange shit out.

Micah, busily nibbling on cheese and dodging next doors cat agrees to the visit but is understandingly shocked when the doctor decides that what they’re facing isn’t a ghost at all but a nasty demon, intent on dragging Katie to Hell.

Hang on, that's another movie sorry.

Recoiling in horror from the flock wallpaper (yet cunningly blaming on the evil energy in the house) Jeff makes his excuses and leaves but not before giving the hapless couple a few useful tips regarding demon possessions (as in if you're possessed by one, not how to take care of their pets, clean their shoes, water their plants etc).

And the phone number of his best mate, Professor Emilio M. Demonologist.

This tips, if you're interested include:

Don't run screaming from the house to a nearby hotel, if you do the spirit will just follow you and possibly shit in the Jacuzzi.

The Demon feeds off negative energy so under no circumstances start swearing at it whilst indulging in a spate of manly posturing.

And most importantly don’t even think about buying (or borrowing) a Ouija Board and trying to contact it, cos if you do, much badness will follow.

Seems easy enough to remember so it's just a pity that mousy Micah was too busy running around in a wheel to pay any attention then wasn't it?

By now Katie is shaking like a jelly and has given up on shorts completely, preferring a large pair of grey granny pants, whilst Mighty Micah, being manly and all, has decided to handle the demon in his own studly manner.

Yep, he's taken to wandering round the house in his boxers shouting "Is that all yo' got fucker?" whilst making fist gestures at the ceiling.

Hmmmm.....I have a feeling that this isn't going to end well at all.

"Fuck me! It's John Leslie!"

Made way back in 2007, Paranormal Activity seemed to appear from nowhere a few months back, hyped to buggery and with a poster quote from Steven Spielberg to boot.

The squinty eyed bearded one, (most famous for taking absolutely no responsibility for Vic Morrow's death at the hands - and rotor blades - of coke monster John Landis, even tho' he was the producer in charge of Twilight Zone The Movie, oh and directing some films as well), reckoned it was the most disturbing movie he'd ever seen (tho' I'd have thought this would come close), not only that but it was reported how his toilet door would mysteriously lock itself after he'd viewed it.


Or Hollywood bullshit?

Well, whilst in no way 'one of the scariest films of all time', Paranormal Activity still manages to deliver some finely realised chills by cunningly exploiting the universal fears of the dark and of things unknown in the shadows, cleverly concentrating on the subtle and unseen, strange noises and sounds and the effects on the couples relationship rather than on cheap scares and chills.

And whilst I can appreciate how our American cousins have gone crazy for the film, being as it is an antidote to the seemingly endless glut of anaemic remakes and teen friendly horror fodder blocking up the cinema cistern at the moment, British fans may find the whole thing disturbingly familiar to the classic BBC Halloween spooktacular Ghostwatch broadcast way back in 1992.

Roland Rat and Kevin the Gerbil:
The mooth shite-in years.

from the stories structure and setting, thru to the way information is leaked to the viewers via the use of a 'spooky' area of the house where vital evidence is found (in this case the attic, replacing the Ghostwatch 'glory hole') both are frighteningly similar in both style and substance.

Tho' Ghostwatch, climaxing as it does with it's cross dressing pedo poltergeist molesting a pyjama clad pre-teen in a cellar has the edge over it's American counterpart.

Oh, and it's also got the chat-tastic Michael Parkinson in it too, possessed by the aforementioned spook and whispering nursery rhymes to the viewers.

No competition really.

If there's any criticism of Paranormal Activity it's that after such a slow, atmospheric build up, the shoddily added subplot regarding Micah finding a Youtube video of a previous possession by the same demon jars hideously with the realism of the rest of the film.

The 'secretly' shot film with it's hastily face-painted demon girl and fake severed limbs is laughable at best but at worse goes a long way to destroying the air of tense foreboding that the director had managed to build during the previous hour.

Then there's that ending.

Rumour has it that the film actually has three (the original, a test screening one and a cinema ending), the one that I viewed, with a possessed Katie killing Micah (offscreen) before returning to the bedroom to sit and silently rock herself is fine as it stands but the addition of a couple of gun-happy coppers bursting in and shooting the poor cow seems just too much.

Like the rest of the film, director Peli should've remembered that less is more.

The same goes for the hype and PR surrounding Paranormal Activity because, sadly this nice little scare movie that should have been a surprise Halloween treat has been blown out of all proportion and couldn't possibly live up to the publicity attached to it.

Which is a shame.

So forget the hype, leave it for a year or so then surprise yourself with it on DVD.

Just don't watch Ghostwatch first.


Quagmire of the Antler People said...

Top review sir and refreshing to read a UK viewpoint of it after all the expected ones from American Critics hailing it as the scariest film ever and superbly original etc.

I was getting thoroughly fed up with the countless "Blair witch" comparisons for this film which are utterly lazy and nonsensical at best. The only thing this has in common is the low budget and occasional off screen scares and audio happenings, in comparison to this, NOTHING happens in 'Blair Witch' which is a good thing.

Clearly it's indebted to Steven Volk and Lesley Mannings TV masterpiece as you rightly state and also to the more modern reality ghost shows like "most haunted" with its clever use of consumer level AV gear, night time scare locations and screaming ex Blue peter presenters and dodgy possessed greedy fake psychics.(perhaps not the last bit)

I totally agree on many points here, especially the feature spoiling deviation of the "possessed woman" part which made me want to throw my night vision goggles at the screen in frustration. What were they thinking? Had this been MUCH more subtle it could have been an utter gem.

The ending you describe is the one I saw too and yes, it's too much. The theatrical ending (which seems to be shown in spoiler form in the trailer) just looks like a REC. ending rip off to me. I'd like to see the Test Audience ending therefore, maybe all 3 will be on the DVD!

So I enjoyed it but for me 'Ghostwatch' will always be the yardstick for such things, the internet and the instant availability of info these days and a general loss of innocence in people has made it unlikely we will ever have such a thing again.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ash,

I saw this at Sitges and was really disappointed. The movie immmediately dragged me out of it due to several plot holes which I cannot believe the many US critics, who sang its praises, did not grasp (I'll accept Spielberg not commenting on my first gripe as I doubt he pays attention to bank balances these days). But anyway:

1) What on earth do these two people do to live in such a huge mansion, with swimming pool and enormous flatscreen television? The girl is a student (although all she does is sit around and knit and shit) and the guy is a "day trader" (albeit one who is back home every night before day turns to evening).

2) Why don't they close the door?

3) Why are they sleeping with the lights off?

4) If the guy refuses to accept the paranormal expert as speaking any kind of facts then why on earth does he accept that he and his girlfriend should not leave the house? Surely, after seeing demon footprints and an exploding ouija board you would leave the house irregardless of what some stuffed suit said?

5) Video footage! Plenty of video footage! Go to the cops, the local priest, the TV stations whatever... You have *Video footage of weird shit*!

6) Both characters were really obnoxious. I couldn't wait to see them splattered.

The ending I saw (incidently - and spoilers ahead) ends with Katie becoming all "Ring"-style ghostly and murdering her fella by chucking him, back-first, onto the camera. The fact the "possessed" Katie looks into the camera for the final shot further undermines the plot - if the demon knew there was a camera there all along why allow the recording?

I loved The Blair Witch Project, which had three likeable characters experience hell on earth thanks and scared your pants off due to sharp, subtle shocks and an imposing feeling of dread and death, but Paranormal Activity - for me - was far too stupid from the outset to succeed.

And that really big, fuck-off sized house got my back up immediately. Am I supposed to feel sorry for spoilt rich kid yuppies who don't appear to work one solitary hour in the day?


Ashton Lamont said...

Like I said, it's a not bad wee idea, if you switch your brain off for a while but I do feel it's stretches itself to breaking point long before the climax. Everyone (except it seems yourself, paul (above) and me) seem to forget how great Blair Witch was. Yet another film destroyed/cheapened by hype and a pointless sequel. Hopefully tho' everyone'll go out and rewatch Ghostwatch now!