Sunday, October 18, 2009

It Came From The Cineplex: Paranormal Activity

The new film "Paranormal Activity" is being billed as the scariest movie ever made. Does it live up to all the hype? I've created a helpful chart to help visualize just how scary it actually is:

Yes, that's right; "Paranormal Activity" is slightly less scary than a basket of kittens.

Will you be scared by it? Well, that depends. If the unbearably horrifying sight of a bedroom door slowly moving an inch or two, car keys found sitting in the center of the kitchen floor or low rumbling sounds terrifies you, then you'll fill your pants. If not, you'll likely be left scratching your head, as I was.

It's not that it's a bad movie. It's quite competently made, especially when you find out it was shot in the director's home for the astonishing price of $15,000.

It's shot in "Blair Witch Project" shaky-cam documentary style in an attempt to convince us it's a true story. In the film, we meet Micah and Katie, a normal couple living in a normal suburban house. As the movie opens, we find out that the couple has been hearing odd noises in the house at night, and Katie admits that this is not the first time she's encountered supernatural phenomena. Micah buys a video camera and proceeds to document virtually their every waking and sleeping hour in the hopes of catching the mysterious cause of the sounds on tape.

The tapes reveal a gradually escalating series of nocturnal visits, culminating in demonic possession and death.

There are some genuinely creepy moments in the film, and there's a slowly escalating air of menace, but scary? I'm afraid not (see what I did there?).

I will give Dreamworks Studios (the distributors of the film) kudos for an absolutely brilliant marketing campaign. How do you sell a modest $15,000 film in the era of $200 million dollar blockbusters? By making audiences demand to see it, that's how.

The film originally opened in just a handful of select cities, and the original trailer featured mostly scenes of audience's terrified reactions as the announcer ominously informed us they were watching the scariest movie ever made.

Then the studio turned to the internet and announced that the film would likely not play nationwide, unless you went online and filled out a petition demanding that your local theater play it.

It's classic textbook marketing: Tell the audience how awesome something is, and then tell them they can't have it. That's how you create desire.

And wouldn't you know it, they got just enough names on their petition to convince the studio to release the movie nationwide, and just a couple of weeks before Halloween, to boot. Whew, lucky us! I absolutely guarantee you they planned on releasing it everywhere all along.

As to whether you should see it or not, I say don't bother. It's competently made, but it is far from being the scariest movie ever. Skip it and wait for the DVD. I give it a C.

1 comment:

  1. Paranormal Activity isn't a true story. It's a made-up story like all ghost movies they make except they wanted to make it seem more real, like a documentary.



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