Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paranormal Activities

I am happy to announce that the Hell Weeks are officially over!  Yes, I finally have enough free time to sit down for an hour and compose a post.  And that means the blog should be fully back at a regular-ish schedule starting now.  Unfortunately, after two whole weeks of constant homework, essays, and study, I have done absolutely nothing remotely fun in ages.  Yeah, its hard out here for this pimp.  It is seriously downright depressing on a lot of levels.  But I did finally see both "Paranormal Activity" movies recently, so that's going to be the post here.

The original goal was to see the first two "Paranormal Activity" movies and then the third one.  That goal has changed a bit, since I really do not feel like putting eight dollars down to be bored out of my skull for two hours.  Heck, I could just write another lesson plan if that were my goal.  It has been criminally long since I've been to see a movie at theatres, and I'm going to correct that this weekend one way or another.  But "Paranormal Activity 3" is definitely not the movie I want to see, because I like my horror movies to actually have... horror.  These are the tamest goddamn horror films I've ever seen!  Did the entire country get replaced with girls or am I completely insane here?  I guess when "Twilight" is the new standard for vampire films, you wind up with a society of wimps.

Okay, I know "Paranormal Activity" is like the new standard of horror or something.  All the trailers hype it up as some incredible visceral experience where essentially they take a funnel to your ear and pour pure terror into your brain.  Well, I must retort this claim immediately:  its a found-footage movie.  That's not to say that found-footage movies can't be good - at least theoretically there might be a good one made one day - but I haven't seen one yet.  "Paranormal Activity" is barely a step-up from "The Blair Witch Project" in terms of scares.  By that I mean, "Paranormal Activity" was actually scary once.  But really, the problem with these movies is that all their scares are about slow build-ups of growing tension, but the build-ups are so slow that well, they're boring.  Snore fests.

I think I've been through this before, but it needs to be said again:  "The Blair Witch Project" really is one of the single worst, worst movies I've ever seen.  At the very least, it was the most over-hyped.  It was beyond awful, a hideous film experience that still annoys me to this very day.  Nothing happens!  You never see the witch, you never see anything!  What a complete waste of time.  A lot of people hate on "Blair Witch 2", but I really like that movie because, even if it was a deliberately confusing movie that didn't actually make a lot of sense, you got to actually see things happen!  Heck, I want to watch "Blair Witch 2" again, it stars Michael Weston, that's hilarious.  Can his spy skills defeat the Blair Witch?  Turns out, no.  "Blair Witch 2" was freaky, funny, and entertaining, everything that "Blair Witch 1" was not.

"Paranormal Activity 1" is basically only a tiny bit scarier than the first "Blair Witch" in terms of sheer visuals and horror.  Both movies are as visually bland, since "Blair Witch" takes place entirely in a bit of unremarkable and entirely nonthreatening forest while "Paranormal Activity" is mostly a static shot of a bedroom.  We got a couple, one douchy guy, one shrill woman, together under the covers while things thump in the house.  The difference is that in this movie, things actually happen.  Not a lot happens, not nearly enough happens, but a few things happen.  Those things that happen are certainly not at all, not even near good enough to justify the hour and a half of tedium around them, but I can appreciate the attempt.  I can believe some kind of ghost or demon is haunting the house in "Paranormal Activity", as for the dumbass film students in "Blair Witch", the only thing haunting them was a braindead sense of direction.

When I refer to "things happening", I mean, horror movie things.  Like ghosts attacking, people getting murdered, blood coming out of the walls, guys tearing their own faces off, scary shit.  The sort of frightening imagery that makes movies like "Poltergeist" or "Amityville Horror" or the ultimate, "The Shining".  "The Shining" was not a movie where characters sat around for long stretches of time waiting for things to happen, it was a movie of constant action.  But it still had a build.  Yeah, there are small things like Jack going a bit crazy, but then you have real nasty stuff happening.  "Paranormal Activity 1" doesn't actually have those things happening.  You don't have the woman in the shower, no children get stuck in the television, priests don't get attacked by demon flies.  Instead, this is a movie were most of the scares are just... doors moving slightly.  I mean, eventually we get to places like Ouija Boards being moved by the ghost, but that's hardly on the same level as ax murders or great action.  They spend so much time building atmosphere they forgot to make a horror movie!

It really gets tedious too, since the main format of this movie is a few day scenes where we learn that yes, the main characters can get more annoying, followed by night scenes.  At night, that's when something scary should happen.  But half the night time events are just like minute long scenes of you watching this couple sleep, while you try to see if in the shadows maybe the ghost is making faces at you or something.  For some people, I guess this is a lot of tension since you don't know what's going to happen, but for me, its just boring.  And there's nothing more disappointing than watching a night sequence and realizing, oh damn, nothing happened, maybe the next night.  I shouldn't be hoping the ghost is going to scare me, I should not want to be scared.  But I'm so not scared that I'm completely bored.  And since the couple is sleeping soundly this whole time, I want to join them and nod off myself.

Now, let's be fair, "Paranormal Activity 1" does have one really great scare:  the ending.  That was awesome.  But unfortunately, that's the place that a good horror movie can reach in about a half hour, and they can only get crazier from there.  This movie ends, right there.  Finally we get to see something happen and well... time to go home.  Or in my case, put in "Paranormal Activity 2".

"Paranormal Activity 2" was a much better movie by far, but I'd say still about a mile away from the kind of horror movie I enjoy.  This time instead of a pair of completely insufferable people, we have a family suffering from this ghost.  You can't ask me to care about a "day-trader" and his frigid angry girlfriend, but when you have a baby and a dog, suddenly my interest is piqued.  The dog, by the way, is the most awesome character in this movie, sleeping in the baby's room, being like this great guardian figure.  And the baby is a baby, and that's always awesome.  I couldn't care less about the first two people (one of them is suck a jackass that he goes out of the way to annoy the ghost just for kicks), but when the ghost starts trying to steal the baby and bites the dog, I have an emotional investment.

The most major difference is that "Paranormal Activity 2" has at least three times as many good scares as the original.  I mean, yeah, there are still plenty of scenes of NOTHING, but once in awhile the entire kitchen will just explode around them.  Oh, and there's the basement scene.  The basement scene is my Exhibit A for why I believe that one day there will be an actually good found-footage movie one day.  This isn't it, of course, but the basement scene is this great bit of action that really shows how shakey-cam business can work if done well.

Unfortunately, "Paranormal Activity 2" is still boring!  The plot here is that the family is being threatened by what they think is a series of break-ins.  So they set up a series of security cameras all around the house to try to catch the criminal in the act.  This ultimately means that 90% of this movie is just the cameras doing the rounds, showing us nothing in each room of the house, until finally we learn, "oh nothing this night".  Yup, that again.  Here's a drinking game for you:  when watching "Paranormal Activity 2", take a shot every time the movie shows you the pool at night and nothing happens.  There's always this shot of the pool every night, and at no point does anything ever ever happen there!  Can't we cut to the chase already?  Its a sad thing when the most fun parts of your movie are the baby making goo-goo faces at the camera and being awesomely adorable, instead of the ghost doing something scary in a horror film!

Oh, and the couple from the first movie show up in the this one.  I'm like "oh, not you two fuckers again!"  And they stay for a really long time.  Uch.

If "Paranormal Activity 3" can in any way possibly increase this upward trend, it might actually be a decent horror movie.  But at that point, you wouldn't even have the same series anymore.  I want action, I want jumps, I want people getting killed, I want houses imploding in on themselves in full force of psychic madness.  There's nothing wrong with a killer clown in the bedroom every once in a while, okay?  Horror movies can be visceral and psychological, but they shouldn't be boring!  Don't hold back, go even more insane.  So I guess I'll see "Paranormal Activity 3" at some point, but I don't see much reason to review it.  It looks like the same movie again.  And none of these movies were any good.

Glad to be back.


  1. Two weeks without a continuous hour of free time? What classes are you taking?

    To me, "The Shining" became significantly less scary once Jack started chasing them with an axe, because then the evil of the hotel had a physical form instead of being a nebulous malevolence that could strike from anywhere. Don't get me wrong, I liked the movie, it's just that I don't find the idea of a guy with an axe particularly horrifying. Slasher movies do nothing for me, either.

  2. Well, there have been plenty of free times over these weeks, but most of that time has either been spent doing work or in that mode of "I'm about to do work but let me procrastinate for an hour". Or just exhausted. Its my Junior Education Field Experience right now, early mornings, lots of writing, lesson plans, debate team, its crazy.

  3. It might be in a similar vein but have you ever checked out the Marble Hornets series on youtube? Somehow it gives me chills even though half the time Slenderman doesn't seem to do anything except stand there menacingly.

  4. I strongly agree with zodiac there. Marble Hornets, EverymanHYBRID and TribeTwelve are all great examples of low budget found footage style horror that scares me more than any Hollywood movie I've ever seen.

  5. Trust me, once you see Paranormal activity 3 with a bunch of friends its terrifying!

  6. I personally have no interest in seeing either films but i can recommend Drag Me to Hell the reason is because it's just disgusting but in a almost funny way it's absurd and i love it it's the Sam Rami i grew up with because it's like any of The Evil Dead movies but scarier.