“Paranormal Activity”…My Ass!!!

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Yes, I spent a long, arduous weekend away from home casting off dead-end relationships, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy some semblance of a social life.  Of course, I sought entertainment.

Those relationships are dead; I’m not.

My sister, Kathy and I are ghost fanatics.   We’ve both experienced a lot of very strange things in our lives and yes, we lived in a very haunted house growing up.   It was haunted alright–by greed and selfishness; bouts with insanity, poor judgement, mismanagement, anger, rage, cruelty, adultery, abandonment and yes, the occasional ghost, too.

To put it as succinctly as possible, I’ve seen some really weird and inexplicable shit in my life.   So has Kathy and that would explain why she and I have always been drawn to any and all things paranormal.    

There’s Ghost Hunters on SyFy.

Extreme Paranormal (this new show is really kind of lame) and Paranormal State which are both broadcast on A&E.

Ghost Adventures on The Travel Channel.

Ghost Lab on Discovery.Scooby and gang

And ” Scooby Doo!!  Where Are You” on Boom.   

As a kid who dug ghosts and “Bewitched”, I was always rather insulted by the ghostly exploits on Scooby Doo.    It was never about the paranormal, but more about object lessons and how good triumphs over evil and chicanery never wins.   Every episode resulted in four erstwhile ascot wearing hepcats and one talking dog with human teeth who gallavanted around in a mod painted van called  “The Mystery Machine” determining that some crooked, swindling asshole wanted townsfolk to believe his cotton gin or old steel plant or old saw mill or old warehouse was haunted to keep everyone away so he could sell it to the state which had plans to demolish it to in order to construct a new interstate.

How’s that for an elongated run-on sentence?????

Anyway, remember how each episide ended when the man trying to scare everyone got busted by Velma, Shaggy and company?

Scooby_Doo Villain He always said, “And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!!!”

 That’s how it always ended, save for post mystery confab and “a malted” at Pop’s Choklit Shop, an impromptu sock hop,  the mass consumption of a Scooby snack or two, Shaggy screeching “Zoinks” and the periodic appearance of the Harlem Globetrotters which frankly, I never understood.

But I completely digress…

Kathy and I decided to see “Paranormal Activity”.

paranormalactivity

We shelled out $7.50 for a ticket, then went straight to the theater’s bar where we ordered a beer;  drank that before going into the auditoreum hoping against hope that we would indeed in scared witless.

One hour and 39-minutes later we emerged from a darkened theater, faces ashen; eyes wide.    Kathy was speechless.  I could barely walk.

Were we scared?  

No, try pissed off.

“Paranormal Activity” is a colossal waste of time and money.  The movie itself shouldn’t earn the millions it currently is,  but the puboicity machine  and press wizards at Paramount have surely earned their bonuses for the next five years.   Kathy and I fell for the well-oiled hype hook, line and sinker.

The movie was filmed in seven days for a whopping 15-grand.  The location was a private home (the actual director’s home) in San Diego and stars two unknowns;   Micah Sloat as Micah, an up and coming day trader  and Katie Featherston as Katie, his girlfriend and full time student..   Little is known about this acting duo.  I can tell you that Featherston is from Texas and got her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from SMU before heading west to Hollywood to ply her craft.     

The film was shot on a hand held camera which was either placed on a tripod or held by Sloat.  Apparently, he knew what he was doing–he was a cameraman at the campus  TV station where he went to college.   This helped a great deal, thus eliminating the need for a camera crew.   

Once again, keep in mind the film’s 15K dollar budget.

A LITTLE ABOUT THE MOVIE’S CONCEPTION

The idea for the film came about when writer/director Oren Peli began to experience “weird things” at the home in which he was living and wondered what would happen if he were to set up cameras to capture what happened as he slept at night. The vulnerability of being asleep, he reasoned, tapped into a human being’s most primal fear, stating, “If something is lurking in your home there’s not much you can do about it.”

Peli, himself, had been afraid of ghosts his entire life, claiming that even the mild comedy Ghostbusters had scared him.  But this fear, he claims, made him want to channel it into something positive and productive and God willing, profitable at the Box Office.  Peli took a year to prep his own house for shooting, going so far as to repaint the walls, add furniture, put in a carpet, and build an actual stairwell. A very pleasant side effect, he joked, was ending up with a “dream home with a big TV”. 

Focusing on believability and authenticity and believing that “atmosphere and a slow plot build” were more important than “over-the-top” action and gore, Peli chose to shoot the picture with a hand-held home video camera.  Peli adds that the dialogue was “natural” because there was no real script. Instead, the actors were given outlines of the story and situations to improvise, a technique used in the making of  “The Blair Witch Project”.  

In casting the movie, Peli auditioned “a few hundred people” before finally meeting  Featherston and Sloat. He originally auditioned them individually and then called them back so that they could audition together. Peli was impressed with the chemistry the actors showed.

Armed with a minimal  budget,  a hand-held video camera and  no formal film training, Peli began shooting.    As just stated, the film was shot at the director’s old house in Ranchos Penasquitos, a suburb area in San Diego.   It  was shot out of sequence due to the time constraints  even though the director wanted the story to unfold for the actors as he had envisioned it.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!!!    POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!!!

I should tell you that this isn’t about ghosts; it’s about demons, or rather,  one in particular who has an evil penchant for invading the souls and bodies of ramdom eight year old girls.  In this case, Katie.   The house isn’t haunted; Katie is.    All she knows is that it has plagued her all of her life and at times, appears as this huge, mass that touches her, messes with her sheets while she sleeps and whispers stuff in her ear.    It is also doing these same things in the home she now shares with her boyfriend, Micah.

They decide to set up a camera in their bedroom in order to catch whatever it is that’s haunting Katie while they slept and how they slept with all that was going on was beyond me.   All I can say is Ambien…and a lot of it, I’d imagine.

There are some interesting effects to which I will give some praise.   And I will admit that there are some scary moments, but while top notch computer film editing kept the film from looking  as cut rate as it could have, the plot had gargantuan holes in it that  I was acutely aware of, even as I watched the movie.  

Gaping holes.

Yeah, I know that ine man’s Jason is another man’s Chucky–I completely get that and what makes a comedy funny to some leaves others scratching their butts.  The same applies to horror.   Appreciation of these movies and their plotlines are completely subjective acts, but I’ve been reading and listening to the reviews of professional types who I once respected…people who really should know better.   The critics are raving.  So are many audience members.

  • This is, many claim,  the scariest movie ever made
  • I’ve known people who had to leave the theater halfway into the movie because they were so scared
  • I’ve read accounts of people who had to sleep with the lights on three nights after seeing the flick 

I don’t get it!!    As I stated, there were a couple of well done parts and true, my sister and I had to watch a few of these scenes through our shirts (the reason for that is that a scary scene which appears faint to the eye is better than something completely obstructing the view) but the ending was so terrifically and horribly disappointing that it completely negated every preceding scene that we’d deemed decently scary.

Want to know the scariest part of the ending?  According to Wikipedia, it was recommended by Steven Spielberg.    Well, all I have to say is Stevie, your losing your stuff, man.  The ending to your remake of “War of The Worlds” and how it ended with all that germ crap was bad enough, but this too????

Additionally, I think that age has a lot to do with how one processes the fear factor in “Paranormal Activity”.  Younger people rave about it.   Maybe this was an isolated incident, but Kathy and I saw it during a matinee and the audience consisted of older theater-goers.     I looked around and as best I could tell, the bulk of the audience was mid 40’s and older.

When the last scene ended and the screen faded to black, on older gentleman sitting two rows back screamed “Fuck this!!”

A woman to our left shouted “Bullshit” and two rowdier oldsters sitting closer to the front, screamed something unintelligible, then threw empty popcorn buckets at the screen.

My sentiments exactly.

I can sum up my “Paranormal Activity” experience like this:

Say you’ve been hearing nothing but rave reviews about this new hamburger restaurant in town.    People stand in line for these burgers which are thick Angus patties, seasoned and cooked to perfection.   Homemade buns, toppings of your choice.   You hear talk about these beefy delicacies and it’s always accompanied with adjectives such as sumptuous, incredible and awesome.

So, you’ve heard all you can without drowning from your own salivary glands which kick in every time you think about sinking your toofies into one of these burgers.   You simply have to go and check it out for yourself,  so you go.   You order your burger exactly how you want it and count the minutes til it arrives and when it does, you look down and it’s nothing but a thin strip of bun with massive bites taken out of it.

And there’s a nasty lipstick smudge on a portion of  the bun. 

Know what I mean?  I think you do.

So, go see “Paranormal Activity” if you want, but if you want to watcH a very, very scary movie this Halloween–one that will make you gag with fright and emerge from your seat with an overwhelming incredulousness that a film like this ever had a legitimate theatrical release,  go rent the 1980 western flop, “Heaven’s Gate”, instead.

Seriously.

Considering your celluloid alternative currently playing in theaters everywhere,  you’ll thank me later..

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9 comments

  1. I totally agree with you. This movie sucks and was a waste of $9.00. Everyone has talked about how this is such a great movie. That goes to show they don’t know a good movie if it stared them in the face. Please wait for this to come out on video. You have been warned!!!!!

  2. Laurie, if you and Kathy want to see a movie that will have you screaming like little girls, rent the original “The Haunting.” (not the recent cheesecake version with Catherine Zeta-Jones, the original 1963 version.)

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057129/

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    Hey Paul,

    Good to see you here. It’s been way too long. Hope all is well.

    I’ve actually seen the original movie and while I thought that was rather scary, it didn’t have me climbing the walls with fear and I saw it as a kid.

    As a rule, paranormal movies don’t scare me. I was 19 when Halloween was released in 1978. That scared me. I was 17 when a low budget flick called “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”, which was about the phantom murders in Texarkana, Texas in the late 40’s, scared me to death. I’m going to write a Halloween post about scary movies, so I’ll save the morbid details surrounding that movie for later.

    I will tell you though that while “Paranormal Activity” had it’s moments, it was still a colossal waste of my time and money.

    LK

  3. I saw the movie last Tues night on a boredom whim..

    The movie never scared me but the cute chic hanging and standing over the bed made me remember an ex of mine and how I should have dropped her long ago like A sack of hot potatoes.
    Needless to say, the movie did kill my boredom as I kept thinking that the guy was purposely fucking with his woman. LOL

    I liked the movie.

    It didn’t scare me, but then again, real paranormal experiences dont scare you on the big screen, only in real life. However, the redone ending was cheesy. The original, I heard, had a much better ending.
    Anyhoooo, it’s Oct and in the land of Laurel, there once ruled a vixen that oversaw the airwaves late sat nights.. Long live Sup Nat Sat!

    I miss you LK and miss that show!

  4. Boy am I glad to have finally found some people that agree with me. I went to see this last night and upon leaving, I felt like somebody had punched me in the face and stole my money. It was such a bad movie. Slow, uneventful and definitely not scary. I almost fell asleep! I guess I just have to chalk it up to another bad movie seen, but I’m just so annoyed that Paramount’s viral marketing campaign worked. Normally that only works when the content is actually good…which in this case, it certainly isn’t. I wrote up a full review which you can check out here: http://thisweekendsmovies.com/2009/10/paranormal-activity-movie-review/

  5. Sorry here it is

    http://www.zshare.net/video/672916741349ecce/

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    Thanks so much, Paulito. This is stupendous.

    I’ve sent the link to everyone I know. So here you gom my Lauridians. If you want to see the full 97 minute theatrical release of “Paranormal Activity”, click the link above and hurry up. Chances are some exec with Paramount will catch wind that the entire movie is up and then he or she will have that bad boy pulled faster than Joan Rivers face.

    Enjoy.

    LK

  6. the movie scared me and all of my friends, a little piece of advice- go sober and get over yourself it sounds like you went with a huge chip on your shoulder

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    Not surprised at all Jet, is it? Movies like that usually scare those with limited intellectual capabilites.

    Hey, since that’s the case, I hear “Caspar the Friendly Ghost’s Haunted Halloween” is playing on HBO this week. Why don’t you and your friends dress in really scary costumes portraying arrogant Youth of Today, watch the movie, and then eat me?

    Hugz,
    LK

  7. Intellectual? The movie was just ok. of course it wasn’t scarry …it wasn’t true. I had person experiances when I was a child too.

    And FYI ghosts’ are demons, they are one and the same. They just play nice then take over. They have different techniques in getting to you or anyone whom will possibly permit them.

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