I remember when "The Blair Witch Project" came out to much internet hype and fanfare back in 1999. I was dating a huge asshole of a human being at the time who missed out on getting us tickets to the limited release twice. It wasn't for this reason that I kicked his whiny ass to the curb, but it would've been a fine enough reason, because "The Blair Witch Project" was a really creepy little micro-budget, macro-marketing flick. The "waiting in the corner" final frames worked really well, and the acting was natural enough that one could buy into the premise that this was real found footage left behind by hapless young travelers. The Bell Witch-inspired backstory was eerie and mysterious, and it really felt like the storyline I was watching was but one of the many creepy things that had occurred in the Pennsylvania forest. It was worth suffering through the motion-sickness-inducing bits to get through the story to the chilling final frames.
If one were to create a film that boiled off the texture of "The Blair Witch Project" and discarded it, set the story in a three-bedroom house with a cathedral-ceilinged dining room (described somewhat puzzlingly as "a typical suburban 'starter' tract house" in the plot blurb) and center it around the most excruciatingly ordinary couple in recent movie history, one would have "Paranormal Activity." Watching this movie was like spending ninety minutes watching grating yuppie assholes engage in a game of demonic ring-and-run, with the flaming bag of dog turds ultimately left on the viewer's porch.
I love ghost stories, and some of the only genuine scares I've gotten from films have come from this flavor of horror flick. The delicious goosebumps elicited during "The Changeling" and the creeping dread of "The Haunting" are among my more treasured movie memories, so I was eagerly anticipating getting some similar thrills from "Paranormal Activity." For those of you who've been away from the internet recently, "Paranormal Activity" tells the story of a couple haunted by demonic forces through video they've compiled during their investigation. This formula isn't inherently disastrous, but once the ouija board came out and well before the sprinkling of baby powder on the threshold of the bedroom, I had clocked out, realizing that no new ground was being explored here.
Hi! We're bland in a manner similar to that of other humans. Enjoy sharing our horrible lives for ninety minutes you will never, ever, ever get back.
Also, there are few things LESS fun for me than spending an hour and a half of my life with the kind of people I avoid at social gatherings. Male Asshole and Female Asshole embody almost everything I hate about average American human beings. Allow me to elaborate:
- I hate their "careers." He is a day trader, she is a student. Working as a "day trader" is like saying "I play scratch-off lottery tickets for a living and sponge off of my folks who keep me in the soft lifestyle to which I have become accustomed." She is studying English in order to be a teacher. In a startling display of ingenuity, the filmmakers give her the hobby of jewelry-making, instead of taking the easy out of making her a top-notch scrapbooker.
- Female Asshole spends a significant portion of the movie denying her boyfriend sex. Yes, she's a real keeper, that one. I bet they do it with the lights on if it's Male Asshole's birthday.
- Male Asshole says things like "NO ONE COMES IN HERE AND MESSES WITH MY GIRLFRIEND." Your bravado--I am unconvinced by it.
- They have a bevy of decorative pillows and comforters that are stripped off the bed before they can sleep in it. Do normal people do this? That seems like the dumbest thing ever. See also the six-hundred inch television set that dominates their living room that I just KNOW is used for watching THE BIG GAME. I bet they own jerseys representing their favorite athletes that they wear while stuffing their doughy selves with nachos on GAME DAY.
I can imagine getting trapped in conversation with them at someone else's cocktail party. They're colleagues of a friend of a friend and I have to spend precious minutes of my existence listening to prattle about stock portfolios and mid-terms and designer pillows at Bed Bath and Beyond while they criticize my lifestyle in the kind of passive-aggressive manner perfected by the Studiously Average.
Whatever horrors this film held in store for these folks, they simply weren't hideous enough.
But back to the Movie Actual. I can dig a slow burn--hell, slowness in films doesn't bother me one whit; I'm a Eurotrash fan. I was dismayed by the assholocity of the lead characters, but I held off on unleashing the full measure of my ire, eager to see the nighttime footage shot while the couple is sleeping. This footage is undoubtedly well-handled, but it's a serious problem that EVERYTHING that happens when NOT shot on a tripod while the leads are ASLEEP (and therefore not talking) makes me want to reach through the screen and bounce somebody's head off of the sidewalk.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you not to see this movie because--quite frankly--most people I know really dug it. I'm not an arbiter of good taste, nor do I wish to be one. But... I can't help but feel like some other, different, nigh-upon-unwatchable movie that isn't the "Paranormal Activity" other people are raving about was somehow slipped into the projector last night. Cos what *I* saw, lieblings and liebchens, was the worst movie I've seen in a significant amount of time.