Monday, November 9, 2009

paranormal activity

For some ridiculous reason, these past few weeks I have found myself looking scary stories up online, hiring horror movies and being held in thrall by Chris’s enormous memory for urban legends. I’m fairly pragmatic about these kinds of things; I don’t believe in ghosts, or demons, or monsters, or possession, though the jury’s still out on aliens. (I don’t believe we’ve encountered them yet, but it’s a big universe out there and it feels a bit egocentric to assume we’re the only living things around.) Despite my disbelief, I’m a fairly easy person to instil terror in and I’m always up for an opportunity to scare myself stupid, even though it is usually followed by regret and nightmares.

Suffice it to say that when we were offered the chance to see the movie Paranormal Activity I said a big fat terrified yes. This decade’s Blair Witch Project, the whole thing was made for about four dollars twenty and has grossed a ridiculously large amount of money already, and hasn’t even been released beyond preview screenings in Australia yet.

Micah and Katie are a young couple living in a big house, disgustingly in love with each other. University student Katie has a problem, however: ever since she was young, she has been haunted by something. It follows her wherever she goes, and gives her occasional reprieves. Now, however, this haunting has returned. Micah, her no-nonsense and slightly disbelieving partner, acquires a video camera so he can record these haunting for posterity. The whole movie is then told through this video camera as the pair drag it around with them through happy and frightening times. It builds up a nice little montage of sunshiny moments between the couple; Micah follows Katie around with the camera wanting to record how pretty she is, the two laugh and splash about in their backyard pool. Micah sets the camera up at night angled towards the bed and the hallway. The night passes harmlessly until you hear it—a thump here, a creak there. Whispers in the night. Shadows in the hall.

I’m not going to say too much here, as I am delirious with anger when scares are ruined for me. You’ll spend a lot of the movie looking around and waiting for things to move, and if anyone sitting next to you coughs during a night scene you’ll jump four feet and be grateful you brought a change of trousers. A scene with a Ouija board brings about as much creepiness as you would predict, if not more. The movie does a good job of not dealing you many false scares—expecting a monster behind you that turns out to be the other person, and so on—and keeps most of your fear in the anticipation of what is about to happen. The hauntings progressively become scarier, the couple more tense, as Katie pleads for help and Micah vows to protect her himself. His arrogance can be a pain during the movie—honestly, the first time you threaten the haunter with violence and things go wrong should probably also be the last—along with one thing that often annoys me during movies, which is when people live in houses that seem much bigger than they could afford. Sure, a one-bedroom apartment would make the movie much more cramped, but how many one-income couples do you know live in two-storey mansions with convertibles, swimming pools and a television the size of my lounge room? (Perhaps this is just on my mind at the moment because we are looking to buy a little bit and I am upset that we personally can’t afford anything to live in anything bigger than a shoebox in someone’s cupboard.) Micah claims to be a day trader, sure, but I don’t know anything about day trading, and therefore am correct in my assumptions.

Micah also apparently knows all about audio, as demonstrated in a scene where he is listening to a late night whisper on his computer: “This isn’t any language I’ve ever heard!” Bleurgh. Still, despite a couple of corny moments mostly supplied by Micah’s attitude problem, you do feel a lot for this cute young pair and the terrible sleep patterns they must be experiencing. It’s a creepy movie, no doubt about it, and better than many more expensive horror films I’ve seen. I hear tell there are three different endings being shown, and just hearing about the others gave me chills.

I am also happy to report that despite seeing this at ten o’clock at night in an apartment overlooking a dark city alley, then driving home and making our way through the dark side streets near our home and into the flat where the cat is available all night to knock things over unexpectedly at two in the morning, I didn’t have any nightmares. I can’t guarantee the same for you.

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