Overlooked Film of the Week- #78
If "The Blair Witch Project" popularized the found footage genre, then it was "Paranormal Activity" that made it relevant again.
Much like "The Blair Witch Project," "Paranormal Activity" based all of its scares on mood and atmosphere. There is very little blood in the movie and if it weren't for the language, then film probably could have received a PG rating. It is amazing what a cast and crew can do simply based on sounds, camera work and use of dark and light. I wish more movies strived to be like this, and less about the gore and the spectacle. I find it interesting that there is a cry to get rid of the found footage genre but there is no cry to get rid of torture porn.
The film revolves around Katie and Micah (played Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat), and on one night, Micah comes home with a video camera. Katie has been dating Micah for awhile now, but just recently revealed that her and her sister where traumatized by a paranormal force growing up. Now, she feels that presence may have come back. Micah is fascinated by this recent revelation, and tries to catch it on camera. Of course, that is not a good idea and they are routinely haunted every night by an invisible demon, ready to possess Katie for something.
Not only does "Paranormal Activity" rely on mood and atmosphere for scares, it is also smart about how it stages those scares. There is plenty of blink and you'll miss it scares in the movie. That unnerving, unrelenting horror is what sets "Paranormal Activity" apart from the rest of the found footage hoard. "Paranormal Activity" would have felt different even if it weren't a found footage movie. The haunting in this movie doesn't take place in an old, creaky house. This is the house I grew up in, the house that you grew up in. How can we feel safe if the one place that we should feel safest is no longer safe for us? Ever since my girlfriend and I have had an apartment of our own, I have been extra-protective of our surroundings. I remember when I would be alone in the house I shared with four friends in college, and how spending a night alone used to creep me out. Anything can happen in this world and "Paranormal Activity" exploits that.
"Paranormal Activity" set a new standard for this sub-genre. When that happens, a franchise usually occurs. What is fascinating about this franchise is how it is continually changing, creating a cool mythology out of its characters. This is something that could be built to last, and I love this journey so far. It put new meaning into a genre that was becoming a joke. I just wish all found footage was this confident.