Back in 2009, I kept hearing all this talk about a one particular horror film. Paranormal Activity (2007). Somehow I managed to talk two of my friends into going to one of the only theaters around are area playing the during the limited release. Unlike the last film I heard about through a word of mouth process, I was going to be able to see what the big deal was this time. This time I was not too young to go by myself. This fueled my determination. Plus, I knew Paranormal Activity was going to scare me.
One of the other best parts was how many people were in the theater that evening. The other freaky part was that this was the first time I had seen a film at night instead of paying less for a matinee. Ten whole dollars! This film had to be good because I typically refused to pay that cash to see a film. Thank God for subscription programs. To say the least I was not disappointed by the time.
I did have a desire to research the film afterward though. I wanted to be able to know all the little details. Soon enough Entertainment Weekly had a huge spread about the film and soon enough the word of mouth process was paying off for the little horror film that could.
The on-demand request process of Paranormal Activity became the must see horror films of 2009. The film opened up in limited edition to twelve screens in the United States on September 27, 2009. In the UK on November 29, 2009 the film opened on three hundred and ninety-four screens opening weekend. In the United States the estimated $15,000 production cost of the film grossed $77,873 in the opening weekend alone. By the time the word of mouth reached viewers overseas, the film grossed £3,593,762 in the UK opening weekend. This is quite an accomplishment in the film world.
Every now and then audiences of course latch onto films and refuse to let go until everybody he or she knows sees said film as well. Paranormal Activity is filmed in a documentary style, which made the film feel real and more frightening to most moviegoers. Flocks of people continued to line up for showings of the film in various towns across the United States as the film grew to play on 2,712 screens.
The basic premise? After a couple, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat), move into suburbia a demonic presence bothers a couple on a nightly basis. Much like The Blair Witch Project (1999), the film took the actual names of their actors and wanted the feel of a true story. Unlike the advertising of The Blair Witch Project, most people going into Paranormal Activity knew this was just a film. One must ponder how much more the film would have grossed if marketing had gone with the strategy of The Blair Witch Project.
While alike, Paranormal Activity is a different film in many ways. For anyone who believes in demonic possession, ghosts, and/or hauntings this film can truly get inside one’s head and scare the hell out of someone. People disagree with me in regard to the scares with this film. Two of the people I saw this film originally felt this feature was a joke and not worth anyone’s time. The film either touches something deep inside a person or it simply does not. I will admit to sleeping with the television on at night so at least some form of light in the room. Childish? Yes. My imagination has a way of instilling of fear inside of me on almost a daily basis still, and in a film where less is more one’s mind is truly tampered with at the end of the day.
All the gore and violence that special effects teams can conjure up from time to time can be amazing, but when one is truly scared a person lets their imagination get the better of them. A person feels scared when he or she hears a noise outside and their thoughts begin to slowly wander. A limited amount of screen time for the so-called villain helps because a person wonders how they can escape. How can a person survive that presence torturing the couple?
No person can rid themselves of all thoughts entirely. This is nearly an impossible feat without a lobotomy. A person has to feel something and most people will exhibit fear at one point in their life.
The greatness of the film is the faux documentary filming. The other is the fact audiences only see what the characters see. At one point or another, audiences are viewing either the tape from the previous night or so-called real time. Eventually film-goers know they will view the footage alongside Micah and in some instances alongside Katie too. To have such insight into these horrific events unfolding before audiences one begins to put themselves in a character’s shoes. Plus, the beginning of the film indicates to audiences that this film will not have a typical Hollywood ending. No rainbows and cute cartoon birds are going to appear while someone walks off hand-in-hand into the sunset.
Paranormal Activity ends on such a note that either leaves audiences stunned or highly disappointed. The film truly makes a person think. If it were not for the realistic portrayal of a couple by Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat the film would not have been as successful. By having him be a non-believe and such a smart-ass, while cliche to the genre, in regard to anything Katie wants him to believe is the perfect formula. By keeping the simplistic formula, the writer and director made the film all the better.
Overall, Paranormal Activity is a rare gem of horror films. Much like The Blair Witch Project this is either a film one will hate or one will adore. Quite frankly, this is a smart film and one of the better horror films out there. To have such a low budget and use actors within the film not well known, the documentary feel felt even more authentic. When making a film such as Paranormal Activity one has to take their budget into account, but their audience as well.
By creating a film where one never sees the presence after the couple makes the film all the more frightening. Merely getting inside someone’s mind to instill fear is far more powerful than gore. Paranormal Activity will always be one of my favorite horror films. May there be more films to change the landscape of horror once more and may there be more directors and writers not afraid to create a villain which lies inside one’s head and one’s soul.