I Dislike Paranormal Horror Films…So Let’s Watch The Paranormal Activity Franchise: Part 1
Every Halloween, I always make sure to watch specific horror films: ‘Saw’, ‘Trick ‘r’ Treat’, ‘Jeepers Creepers’ and ‘Tusk’ are all watched every year to the point where I probably know the script by heart. However, I wanted to do something different this year, and step out of my comfort zone a bit.
One of the horror subgenres that I dislike the most are Possession films. Films like ‘Devil’s Due’, ‘Amityville Horror’ and ‘The Last Exorcism’ never seem to hold my interest, and even a classic like ‘The Exorcist’ took me a few days to finish because I kept losing interest. So, I want to give myself a challenge: at the end of each week this month, starting today, I will be watching all of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ films, with the last four acting as a double upload on the last two weeks of October.
Why this franchise? Firstly, because it’s a long-running horror franchise and I want to bring a weekly horror feature to Battle Royale With Cheese. And, secondly, this is one of the highest grossing Found Footage films in recent years. From its $15,000 budget, it has grossed over $193 million worldwide, thus spawning its 5 sequels.
‘Paranormal Activity’ was released in 2007 and written, directed, filmed, edited and produced by Oren Peli. It follows a couple, Katie and Micah, as they move to a new home in the hopes that they’ve outrun a demon that haunted their last house. However, as Micah films on and places a camera in their room, they discover that the demon has far from vanished.
My first viewing of this was less than praising; after all the hype that the film had received, my Dad and I watched it, but ended up switching it off at the halfway mark. Therefore, I was a little unsure about how this viewing would go. But I was pleasantly surprised.
While I wouldn’t call this film scary, it was definitely tense and had its shocking moments. The build up of events per night was extremely effective at making it seem that things were getting progressively worse. While there weren’t many jump scares present, it definitely got me when they did occur because they were unexpected.
Two aspects that Found Footage films struggle with is the reason why the camera is still rolling, and the motivation behind the filming in the first place, even when nothing’s gone on. Even a classic like ‘The Blair Witch Project’ struggles with this at times. However, the motivation here makes sense. Because Micah and Katie have moved to a new house to try and run away from a demon, Micah wants to film in the hopes that he’ll catch evidence of whether the demon is still following them or not. Whereas, with other Found Footage films, the events don’t start until a quarter of a way into its running time, this film is different because the demonic events are already occurring. This also means that Micah and Katie’s relationship is a little strained from the beginning of the film; they’re frustrated, and they want the demon to disappear.
The lead actors, Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston, carry this film perfectly. Their onscreen chemistry is fantastic, and they trick the audience into thinking they’re an actual couple right from the start. The divide between the two character’s reactions to the situation, plus their thoughts on how to fix it, also make this gripping. Katie has known this demonic presence throughout most of her life and she’s scared and just wants to get rid of it. Micah, on the other side, doesn’t take the situation seriously despite their unseen past with this entity, and decides to agitate and provoke the demon. It isn’t until near the end of the film that he tries to actually help Katie, by which point, it’s too late. Because the audience is with these two characters throughout the film, the casting was the most important aspect to get right and they definitely succeeded in getting fantastic actors who have great chemistry.
The film does drag in the middle, despite it having a strong start. With films like this, the paranormal events have to start small and build up, showing the audience that the entity is slowly getting stronger or, in this case, angrier. However, this one takes a little too long, in places, to get to where it wants to go narratively. The film wouldn’t have suffered too much from another cut in the editing room. But, because the film was edited at the same time as the next scene was being filmed, it’s understandable that this was not possible.
Overall, ‘Paranormal Activity’ was a surprise re-watch. It’s not necessarily scary, but it has its tense and shocking moments. The lead actors carry this film comfortably on their shoulders from the start and it’s an impressive film, production-wise, due to its tight filming and editing schedule. While this won’t be for everyone, I would consider this a Halloween must-watch for fans of the Possession subgenre.
To finish the article, I wanted to add in another aspect to the weekly experience: during each film viewing, I will be writing down any quotes that I said that I think stand out. Enjoy!
-At the 8:52 mark: ‘Oh, I forgot how quickly this film gets going. We’re at the first night!’
-At the 26:10 mark: ‘Wait, you never told him about the demon until you both moved in together?!’
-At the 38:30 mark: (Katie stands up and stares at Micah for about an hour on the camcorder timer): ‘No thank you! Don’t like it!’
-At the 41:25 mark: (Micah has just asked Katie come inside the house after a loud noise has occured) ‘She’s not coming inside after that loud noise!’
-At the 1:16:05 mark: ‘Micah’s the real villain here!’
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