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Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Paranormal Activity




Time to be digest on (or be digested by) the new horror film which has "taken the United States by storm." Now, don't let that quote get to your head, because the last time a sleeper hit "took the United States by storm" it was Paul Blart: Mall Cop, so don't forget that this quote is not neccessarily a recipe for a great film, never mind one of the worst films of the year. In a manner, reminiscent to The Blair Witch Project, which did something very similar except it was set in the woods, here we have a very low-budget, short, snappy horror film shot on digital video, creating what is deemed to be a realistic atmosphere. Basically, to cut the story short and get down to throughly dissecting this film, the film is set entirely in one house inhabited by a young boyfriend and girlfriend, with the girlfriend being followed by what she feels is a haunting precence, and the boyfriend attempts to document this precence on camera. Right, that's all you need to know. To get down to the big question on everyone's mind and the tips of their lips, is it scary. Well, yes it is indeed quite scary. For starters, and this is one of the best things about it, the acting, if you could call it that, is thoroughly convincing. First and foremost, this is completely neccessary with the fact that these two characters dominate the film and bar few appearances from minor characters, are the only people who appear onscreen in the film. Both play their parts realistically, with very human reactions emerging from the actions of both the eponymous Paranormal Activity and the way in which the couple interact with one another and their solutions towards the Paranormal Activity. Sorry for the vagueness here, but it would be a real shame to spoil the film, for it is great watching it the first time. Also, while it is clear that there is no real script in place with regards to character development and dialogue, leaving room for improvisation, there is a clearly solid structure to the film. Incidentally, to those who intend to see it, please be patient on it, because the tension and exposition is done brilliantly at the start, and don't walk out like the angry couple a few rows in front of me and my fellow esteemed critic (you know who you are). It really is a movie that rewards ones patience with some heart-pounding tension. It builds slowly and slowly, knowing when to offer us some scares, pull itself back, give us some more, but even scares this time, and so on until by the end there is literally all tension and the balance between safety and (audience) vulnerability become broken down. This is a genuinely smart, intelligent film that knows it's audience. I am very happy to see a horror movie like this come out in the midst of slew like Saw VI, which it incidentally beat out at the box office, showing that if a decent film has been given exposure, then they will flock to it, rather than being forced to eat the superfluous bilge that is dished out as a consumer product every single day. To talk about the techical aspects of the film, the cinematography is solid, showing some the best and most simplistically subtle uses of DV I have seen in a long time. It is a technique often used without skill simply to cut costs or look "realistic," but here it works so well as to add to the believability of the film. Kudos must be given to director and editor Oren Peli, who created this film in order to channel his lifelong fear of ghosts into something positive. Well, good on you I say. You have done something really good, proving that anyone can make a good movie if they channel themselves psychologically into sensing what is good and what isn't. Adressing yourself from me Mr Peli, you are certainly on my shortlists for editing and direction at the year-end awards, because this is some really good solid work. Finally on the good about the film, the "Paranormal Activity" of the film is a really interesting idea, which is perfect for a high-concept film such as this, and is a genuinely sound and unique idea that is suitably scary. Now, to say on what was bad about the film, and there wasn't a lot that was wrong about the film, for starters, the film makes no attempts to be a genuine terror masterpiece, and I feel that there was a lot of potential here for it to be just that. There is a strong underlying creepiness that permeates throughout despite there not being many "screamer-scares," a creepiness found in really solid, intelligent horror classics such as The Wicker Man, The Shining and Hellraiser. However, they do not really capitalise on this I feel, and I really do worry that the scares themselves are not particularly memorable rather than the experience. Unfortunately, this film is quite clearly an experience horror film, and probably with experience films, it is all about how you feel about it the first time you see it. I fear that I probably will not like the film as much second time round, much like Cloverfield after you see it multiple times. I will remain to admire the technical brilliance of the film, but it just is an experience film without any moments that stand out bar one scene which is not exactly capitalised on well. This is it's real outstanding problem. I feel that it will be remembered for about five to ten years max as a genuinely great horror film and after that it will be remembered as a good horror film. Realistically, all films must be looked upon with the power of time and how they test. I think the best example of this is The Battleship Potemkin, the classic Russian film by Sergei Eisenstein. Despite being nearly ninety years old, a silent film in black-and-white and a propaganda film, one cannot deny the power of the images that the film projects despite the change of time. Other examples could be included but the point is made: whilst Paranormal Activity is one of the best horror films of the year, with good acting, characerisation, solid structure and superb techincal simplicity, proving that indeed less is more in this case, the film is not distinct enough to last the test of time and will prove to be a completely different film second time, and while maybe a very good film, is not a masterpiece in my eyes.


The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.5/10


The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Quite happy


Transformers sucks!

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