Friday 11 December 2009

Paranormal Activity

After much hype in the press, I finally went to see Paranormal Activity today. I'd heard mixed reviews in the UK, but I have to say that despite its tediously slow start, I actually enjoyed it. By the end of the film, I was aware that my heart was attempting to crawl up into my mouth - the last film to have that effect upon me was Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes. I do think in part that Paranormal Activity relies too heavily upon jump-scares, although its utilisation of sound to achieve these, instead of the CGI equivalent of a ghost train rubber skeleton, lets it wriggle somewhat off its hook.

It brought to mind the more 'Gothic' tradition of horror, as opposed to the gore-soaked franchises courting controversy that we have become used to of late. A slow burner in many senses, it scatters clues about the pasts of our protagonists thought the narrative, foregoing the typical chunk of backstory exposition that many filmmakers feel is necessary. The film piles weird occurrence onto weird occurrence until the suspense is pulled so taut that you could probably pick out a tune on it. Maybe Danse Macabre?

Anyway. It's nice to see a film that never actually shows you its 'monster'. It never manages to come quite as close to the pure genius of Robert Wise's 1963 classic The Haunting, and it's not quite as creepy as Poltergeist (incidentally the only horror film to actually scare me) but its low budget, limited location and restricted point of view serve well to ramp up the claustrophobia felt by the couple. We only know as much as they know, although we do clearly benefit from some awareness of cinematic conventions, i.e. ouija boards rarely spell out good news and broken pictures are often bad omens.

Still, I'm glad to see that people are still making ghost movies, and telling ghost stories. I am personally a bit of a believer in ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties having had a few very peculiar experiences myself, and there's something a lot more unsettling about a thud during the night with no obvious source, as opposed to a zombie lurching toward you clutching the scabby remains of a human arm. I was beginning to worry that ghost stories had become a dying art, but I think there's life in the old dog yet...


LigOFE said...

good work!
i enjoyed the movie... i havent seen a good ghostie movie in years!!
i do have to disaggree with one thing though... i hated hills have eyes.. guh! badness...

Icy Sedgwick said...

I didn't really like The Hills Have Eyes but I did feel like my heart was in my mouth for most of it!

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