A big buzz that was going on about a month or so ago was if the new movie "Paranormal Activity" was as good as, or even better than, "The Blair Witch Project". With today being the release of P.A. on DVD, I imagine the debate will start right back up full force... So, being the attention whore I am, I decided to jump right on that bandwagon!
I have been discussing with various people my intentions to watch P.A. and my attempt to do so with an open mind, trying not to let any preconcieved notions from things I have heard sway my opinion. When B.W. first came out they did a fabulous job of marketing, with missing posters
and some web videos. They basically filmed another movie's worth of footage to promote the film and it's release. Well, times (and the Internet) have advanced and P.A. flooded the online communities and did a cool trick of having people "demand" the movie online. I believe the advanced tactics of P.A. created a bigger "buzz" for them, but B.W. did a more creative marketing campaigne and actually had people believing this was true footage that was found from missing documentary makers... That is, untill they saw the first scene of the movie.
The acting in B.W. was not good at all. It at no time put me anywhere near the position of "believing" the characters or the situation they were in was anywhere near "real". If I was lost in the woods and kept circling back to the same spot, I would NOT be stopping every 5 minutes to discuss the situation! I would be walking in one direction at a quick pace knocking down everything in my way until I reached safety or collapsed!!! I also think, given their situation, they were far from realistic emotionally on how they handled their plight.
Where I do give B.W. all it's points is in the fact that they did something new and different (a major reason I was concerned with P.A. since it basically is the same "style" of movie). They actually did a really good job pulling off what they were trying to do, especially when you add in all the "extra" stuff from their marketing arsenal. I did not find B.W. scary *This is where I have to take a moment and look at the word "scary". What one person deems scary another person thinks is stupid, silly or funny. Some people feel a "jump out" is scary, I do not. A jump out is startling and a movie scene that preps you for a jump out is suspenseful. B.W. did a TON of those scenes & did them very well! I remember being on the edge of my seat thinking to myself, "Don't open that tent... something's going to get you if you open that tent!" Sure enough they always opened the tent (they kind of have to, it's a horror movie)... yet nothing EVER happened. A lot of people were dissapointed with the fact that nothing really ever happens thru the entire movie (at least not onscreen). I say that is one of the great qualities of the film. It kept building you up for the jump out then dissapointing you (and sort of relieving you at the same time). This was an awesome tactic that was fun to experience... once.
I considered B.W. to be more of a creepy movie. Especially the ending. You go to the house and you see the little handprints on the wall.
Anyone who was paying any attention at the beginning of the film got it (I love it when a show doesn't play to the most ignorant viewer... They easily could have put in a line like, "OMG, handprints just like in the story that lady told us the other day" or something else that spoonfeeds the audience information they should have gotten themselves). If you didn't get it, you don't deserve to! Thank you B.W. for taking the high road on that one, since so many movies don't. I also found the standing in the corner very creepy as well.
Again, no explanation needed & thank you for not giving one... in that scene a line of any sort would have ruined the entire film.
I actually left the movie of B.W. with mixed feelings at the time. Immediately after viewing I felt a little robbed that nothing ever happened... other than me nearly having a heart attack when every time they went to open the tent (especially after the tent was being beaten on). The more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed it. I started to appreciate what they had done and actually really enjoyed it even more the next time I saw it. Before you get your panties in a bunch... yes, I did just mention the effect of the "in the tent" scenes and yes, I can see how that is "scary". I just feel overall the movie was more "creepy".
The biggest complaint I hear about B.W. was the movement of the cameras. I know the person who saw it with me had issues with this, but it really didn't bother me at all. Of course, I didn't mind Jar Jar Binks in Episode I either.
I was happy in the fact that P.A. was not actually the same as B.W. in how it attempted to "scare" it's audience. I did have a feeling that P.A. was going to go down the same road of B.W. and not have anything really ever happen. I had heard nothing happens till like the last 5-10 minutes of the movie. I was all ready to announce that the only good thing of P.A. was the ending that Steven Spielberg actually refilmed for the theatrical release. Now, I will say that I saw all three ending to the film... The theatrical, the alternate & the original. I must say that the original is the weakest of the three and not a very good ending at all. The theatrical ending is the most "scary" creepy and the alternate is the most "disturbing" creepy. I'm torn on which one I like the best, they both have their redeeming qualities.
original "boring" ending
from the better Spielberg theatrical ending...
she looks hot in a tank top & short
Again I am using the term "creepy" since I definately deem this movie in that category. It does set you up for many possible "jump outs" and it really never delivers on a single one (ok, at the very end with the theatrical version). It does, however deliver a lot more of "something" happening at various parts of the movie instead of simply "nothing".
The acting is far better with P.A. as well as the script & directing. The banter and dialog were far more believable, as well as the characters actions & reactions with what was going on. I do wish she would have done the on camera strip tease he asked for, the movie was rated R after all. No, it was not the best acting in the world, but it was far superior to many movies I have seen with a much larger budget. The effects as well... so simple and low budget, yet they worked very well with the concept of the film. Bigger budget effects could easily have taken away from the "realism" (if I can actually call it that, it is a movie about a supernatural entity) of the film.
I will say the beginning was slower than B.W. that had documentary footage about the Blair Witch at the start that gave a good backstory and was rather interesting with colorful characters being interviewed. P.A. was basically "Look, I got a camera and now I'm going to film everything since you say freaky things have been happening to you since you were 8". I'm not sure what they could, or should, have done differently... I don't think the slower start really hurt the movie at all.
I mentioned above how I was expecting a whole lot of nothing. This movie could have easily turned out to be a 90 minute version of "Ghost Hunters" where something "might" happen, but never does (because ghosts aren't real, sorry).
If you watched the trailer for P.A. they would have you think it would have you shitting your pants from fear
See, I think that one girl just dropped a turd!
I was actually expecting something somewhere in between. After watching P.A. I really think the audience reaction shots in the trailer were mostly all from the last 5 minutes, but there were some times in the movie when there were sudden noises and banging sounds & growls (or whatever it was) that could make you jerk a little. The creepiest part of the film, in my view, was right before the 21st night (the last night) when she is laying in bed and decides that it would be better to stay than leave. She closed her eyes and the eeriest smile comes across her face for just a moment... That was creepy. I knew the Spielberg shit was about to hit the fan!
This is right before the smile, you have to see it for yourself
The movie did get me in a couple spots... I was right back where I was when I watch B.W. the first time. When the entry to the attic was open my mind started going, "don't you go up there! Ok, you can go, but don't you stick that friggin' camera up there... I don't wanna see!" Of course, he did (once again, it is a horror movie after all) and nothing happened. Surprise! I actually enjoyed it all over again. The key is that they didn't use the same tactic over and over as with B.W. They did multiple things to trick the viewer into thinking something was going to "get them" and I almost hate to admit it actually worked.
B.W. preyed on people's fear of the woods, the dark, camping, isolation and being "trapped" inside a tent with who-knows-what outside. It is pretty easy to avoid camping (which I do). P.A. uses some other fears against it's viewer. The simple fear of the unkown & paranormal (another reason I didn't think I would find it "scary", tho I do enjoy shows with with superantural themes). P.A. can strike a chord with anyone since we all have to sleep and we like to think of our homes as a safe place, especially our bedrooms. It is down right creepy to think things are going on while you are sleeping (real or unreal). The thought of having someone break into your home is a scary notion. The idea of someone violating your bedroom and watching you while you sleep can keep people up at night. I think her saying how she could feel the breath against her was a great touch, as well as seeing her hair move when she said she felt like "it" was standing behind her. Those are the "somethings" I was refering to earlier. I think on average more people can get "creeped out" from watching P.A. over B.W. due to that alone.
The biggest "unrealistic" aspect of the characters actions in P.A. was in the ending. After 21 days of grabbing the camera at every little noise they hear and sound his girlfriend utters, he leaves the camera on the tripod when she starts screaming bloody murder? Now I know this is supposed to be startling him and he does a kneejerk reaction, but they say it takes 21 days to form a habbit... that's all I'm saying.
I was really expecting to be dissapointed watching P.A. to the point that the only reason I actually saw it was that I had already told so many people I would. I was expecting to be bored and unamused, certainly not entertained, until the ending. I really wasn't expecting all that much from the ending, either. I was truly all ready to say that B.W. wins by default since it was the "original".
I was pleasantly surprised to find the move very entertaining! It moved along at a decent pace, was well filmed and had a progressive creepiness, similar to the good old days of monster movies when you didn't get to see shit untill like the last 5-10 minutes of the film. The acting was decent and you could tell things were wearing on them. Katie Featherston (who played "Katie") out acted Micah Sloat (who played "Micah), she showed a good transition of being disturbed thru the film. (I must also note that it is a great idea for characters to use their real names, especially with movies that are low budget and they don't have a lot of experience. It is easier to remember cues & lines and wastes less film)
I still think everyone should see B.W. for the experience, but overall I believe P.A. was a superior movie. It was made better and had more substance. And yes, there is very little camera shake... he used a tripod for a lot of the film. If you actually believe in the "boogie man" then this flick may seriously scare you. This would certainly make a good date movie... and you would not likely have to deal with "I'm tired and I just want to go to sleep" that night ;)
Paranormal Activity Wins!