DVD of the Week – Review of Paranormal Activity (2009)
by NIR SHALEV
Mockumentaries have existed since the dawn of films. Looking at it from a certain perspective, every movie ever made can be considered a mockumentary because it depicts actors playing people who don’t exist and in situations that never happened. As far as the defined genre goes, mockumentaries have been steadily increasing in number throughout the past few decades. Even Woody Allen delivered a few mockumentaries, those being some of his best films, although The Blair Witch Project (1999) is the film that most people think started it all. The genre has actually reached the point that we can tell that a movie is a mockumentary just from watching its trailer.
Paranormal Activity is more gimmicky than I would have liked but it gets the job done much faster and better that most of its competitors.
Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) are a happily married couple who are living in a new and spacious home. One day, Micah brings home a high definition camcorder because he and Katie believe their new home to be haunted and he wants to chronicle every happening, minute by minute. The camera is almost always held by Micah; sometimes Katie takes the helm. The only times we see them both in frame are when the person holding the camera is looking into a mirror or when the camera sits on a tripod at night and we get to watch them sleep.
Katie believes that a demon had been harassing her since she was a child and that there’s a great possibility that the same demon is the one that’s currently haunting them. There is no point in developing the main characters in a movie like this because the demon cannot be defeated or even seen, and at first the demon just seems to want to anger the couple. Every few days a thud wakes the couple up in the middle of the night and every once in a while, the demon enters Katie and makes her stand before Micah for hours on end and watch him sleep. It’s creepy but not scary. Being startled isn’t the same as being scared, either.
The good aspect of the film is that it focuses on the fact that usually less is more. The sound quality is weak because the movie’s shot with the actual camcorder and its internal microphone, and we feel like we’re seeing a home video. But also with the fact that less is more this movie tends to be mostly boring because every 15 minutes or so we are treated to random sounds and other bumps in the night. Again, being startled is not the same as feeling creeped out or scared and when I hear people claim this is one of the scariest movies ever made I shake my head. But I did have fun with its unoriginal premise and just how utterly silly it is.
The film’s success is astonishing. With a budget of $10,000 and a total gross of over $100,000,000, this is the most successful movie ever made. But is it worth the hype?
The DVD and Blu-ray come with an alternate ending that was not shown in theaters but there is a third ending that I had seen and it’s missing from this disc. Not being able to explain that is scary.
Other new releases this week: 9, Capitalism: A Love Story, Facing Ali, Jennifer’s Body, The Perfect Getaway