Usually I don’t give spoiler warnings in my blog posts, the reason being that this isn’t a movie review site, it’s an interactive site where we can talk about all details of a movie after we all see it. But for “Paranormal Activity,” I’m going to give a spoiler warning, because this movie depends so much on not knowing what happens next.
For the sake of a quick review, let me say that I admired the movie. I was somewhat scared, somewhat bored — but more scared. Ten years ago, I hated, hated, hated “The Blair Witch Project,” so maybe I’m a hypocrite for liking “Paranormal Activity” — which is in the same faux-found-footage-with-unknown-actors style — but I’d suggest it’s simply a better movie (to be honest, I can’t remember what I hated about “Blair Witch”; mainly, it just didn’t engage me).
If you liked “Blair Witch,” you’ll love “Paranormal.” If you hated “Blair Witch,” you might still like “Paranormal,” but I won’t guarantee it — the film does require that you check at least some of your cynicism at the door and go along for the ride. I have a feeling this movie will be more widely liked than “Blair Witch” was.
Now, consider yourself spoiler-warned.
Plot-wise, “Paranormal” is similar to “Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows” (which I actually liked) in that someone tries to capture the supernatural on video. In this case, it’s a 20-something couple that lives in a rather nice house (he’s a day trader; she’s a student-older-than-average who suspects — with good reason, it turns out — that she’s being stalked by a ghost).
I was kinda bored during the expository scenes (in particular, I would note that the psychologist’s appearances actually hinder the movie’s realism), but there’s a standard camera placement in this movie that cues us to breathlessly ask “What’s gonna happen next?” It shows the couple sleeping in bed. On the left side of the screen is the bedroom door, which leads to a hallway with a few more doorways, and a stairway leading downstairs. It looks like a normal house with the lights turned off, and that’s exactly why it’s kinda creepy.
In one of the first “sleeping” clips, the door moves a few inches on its own. And with each subsequent clip, it gets more extreme. It’s an almost stupidly simple approach, but I gotta say it worked on me (and most of the jumpy, laughing audience I saw the film with). I admit it: I watched these sequences with one eye on the screen and the other on the rows of people below me, just to watch them flinch.
Now, a couple issues, dear readers:
Paramount was briefly thinking of remaking “Paranormal” with bigger actors and more Hollywood polish (studio heads decided to release this version after they saw it with an appreciative audience). Although Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat are OK in the roles (they seem like real people, which is both good and bad in this case), I am curious what the film would’ve been like if it was remade with stars. Who would you cast in the lead roles?
Entertainment Weekly lists three alternate endings to the filmed ending, which was suggested by Steven Spielberg, a fan and supporter of “Paranormal.” What we see in the finished film is Katie throwing Micah’s corpse at the camera, then grinning at us with an evil, demon-esque look.
Did you like that ending, or would you have preferred one of these? (This list is from Entertainment Weekly.)
1. The original ending, where cops find Micah’s corpse and Katie holding a knife. When a door slams, an officer shoots her dead. EW says you can see the original ending by searching for “Paranormal Activity original ending” at YouTube. However, I just got a ton of parodies (some of which are pretty funny).
2. Katie slits her throat, the demon leaves her body, and she dies.
3. The demon-possessed Katie beats Micah to death with the camera — and we see it from the camera’s point of view.
Let me know your thoughts on these issues and also whether you liked “Paranormal Activity” in the first place.