Editor’s Note: Movie reviews brought to you by The City Wire. Here. Now. Enjoy.
The Trav & SHE movie of the week: Paranormal Activity
“Paranormal Activity” is playing at the Malco Cinema 12 in Fort Smith. Link here for ticket info and show times.
Trav: I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm not really a fan of "scary movies." I've tried to watch them, it's just that I rarely enjoy them. I guess fear just isn't an emotion I enjoy experiencing. However, leading up to our review which hits the interwebs the week of Halloween, I figured I needed to suck it up and watch something out of my comfort zone. We had a couple of flicks to pick from, each with their own sub genre in the horror category. Would it be the torture porn of Saw 6 or the point-of-view filmed "Paranormal Activity?" Since I had no idea what happened in Saw 1 through 5, add that I had no intention of watching all 5 of them, we chose the overwhelmingly popular "Paranormal Activity."
SHE: I guess it all depends on what you consider a “scary movie.” If it’s blood and guts and gore, I’m really not interested. But, if we’re talking about a movie that is clever, provides suspense and taps into a primal fear? Well, I may be interested. “Paranormal Activity” had all the buzz and all the potential to be a true horror movie. So, I grabbed my snacks and made sure not to sit too close to Trav.
Trav: Actually, the story behind this project is pretty cool. "Paranormal Activity" was written, produced and directed by Oren Peli in 2006. The production budget has been bandied about in the $11,000-$15,000 range. Peli toured the film on the festival circuit in 2007 hoping to find distribution. Then it all gets fuzzy. There is a rumor going around (or maybe the start of a creative marketing campaign) that Steven Spielberg picked up a "screener" DVD. Apparently Spielberg watched the film and loved it which is a great thing. The bad thing was that his bedroom door locked itself while he was viewing the movie and he couldn't get out, which he blamed on actual paranormal activity he felt was associated with the DVD. Even though the Spielberg stuff is probably just a stretching-of-the-truth for movie marketing, it's an interesting tale.
SHE: Paramount Pictures first released the film Sept. 24 with free screenings in eight theaters. After seeing long lines and packed houses, the studio began showing the film in some college towns. The “Paranormal Activity” Web site encouraged fans to “Tweet Your Screams.” And, Paramount launched a "Demand It!" campaign, soliciting horror fans to vote to have the movie released in their hometowns. The studio promised if the number of votes hit the million mark, it would release the movie across the country. It did. The director and the studio brilliantly harnessed social media to release the movie and get movie horror fans to the theater but twitter, facebook and “Demand It” will only get a film so far. Hype doesn’t make a movie. We saw that with "Bruno."
Trav: There isn't an introduction to our main character's back story per say, "Paranormal Activity" just drops us in the middle of Katie's and Micha's (and their new camera's) lives. Katie and Micha are played by a couple of unknown actors, Kaite Featherston and Micha Sloat, who bring a refreshing and realistic feel to the movie. We learn this couple has been experiencing strange stuff going on in their house. Micha purchases a fancy, new camera to document the happenings. His attitude dares whatever is messing with them to show up on camera. What starts out as an opportunity to document the happenings, turns into a creepy realization that you have no control of what goes on around you when you're asleep. The fancy alarm system installed in the house and locking the doors isn't going to protect them from what is "haunting" our couple. By the way, having video evidence will not deliver solace either. It's just going to make it worse.
SHE: This is a mockumentary that genuinely feeds into our deepest fears. It doesn’t involve a chainsaw or some masked psycho in the woods. “Paranormal Activity” shows how vulnerable we are when we are in our own homes, tucked away in our beds. We may sleep away one-quarter to one-third of our lives, not knowing what is going on during that time. And, while I generally have a disdain for generalizations (what is that? Irony? Sarcasm?), generalities are useful here. Men want to be the strong alpha male. They want to be able to protect us, be the woman’s hero, and make the right decisions. Honestly, that’s why I started reviewing movies with Trav – I know he could drag me out of a burning theater, or he’d have my back if some teenagers start throwing popcorn at me. Women want to be safe. Sure, we can protect ourselves, blah blah blah, but we want to know if we’ve invested decision-making authority in a man, he’s not going to screw it up. Because goodness knows, that if a woman has to take over the decision making and the man even perceives he is being emasculated – end of relationship and your life becomes a horror movie. Oh, but wait … back to the movie.
Trav: This isn't your typical ghost story or slasher movie and I liked that. That's not to say I wasn't creeped out by "Paranormal Activity." I might have watched the last 10 minutes or so with my eyes partially covered while I semi-laughed to myself in an effort to keep in mind this IS a movie. The aftermath of watching this movie left me with a couple of restless nights and the contemplation of canceling my Oct. 30 trip to Booneville to do some ghost hunting.
SHE: Listen, I got distracted earlier. The truth is “Paranormal Activity” feeds into those human fears. The relationship of Katie and Micah looks stable but then the movie watcher realizes Micah is making terrible decisions. He’s like the stereotypical male who won’t pull over and ask for directions – truly frightening. But this is a horror movie so Micah’s horrible decisions are going to lead to some sort of unavoidable confrontation where Trav will jump in his seat and squeal like a girl. I know, I’ve seen it before.
Trav: Even though "Paranormal Activity" totally messed with my head for a couple of days and did make me jump in my seat and scream like a girl, I liked it. It's a great little movie that will scare you, if you let it. I was okay spending my $8.50 on it. "Paranormal Activity" gets a 3.5 out of 5 from me. Go watch it, it's worth the price of admission.
SHE: If you want to see a suspenseful movie that feeds into your fears, go watch this. I took in my 5 requisite snacks and came out with 3, giving “Paranormal Activity,” 3 out of 5. Of course, one of those snacks was a package of milk duds that I was throwing at Trav at opportune times but please don’t tell him.
• The Men Who Stare at Goats (Nov. 6)
Trav: This looks good. George Clooney and Ewan McGregor star in this movie about conspiracy, mind control and the military.
SHE: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, conspiracy, George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, mind control, George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, and goats? What’s not to love?
• 2012 (Nov. 13)
Trav: I cannot wait for this one. Movies with global catastrophes are a favorite of mine. It’s not because I want to watch the world end, its just that I enjoy all the special effects, over-the-top writing, weak attempts at humor, and general the unbelievableness associated with it all.
SHE: End of the world, blah blah blah. Redeeming factor is John Cusack but that’s probably not enough for me. Count me out.
• The Fourth Kind (Nov. 6)
Trav: This looks good. A movie about alien abduction and government cover-ups starring Milla Jovovich. Wait ... where is Mulder and Scully?
SHE: I don’t know. I like Milla but what about George Clooney and Ewan McGregor?
• Shutter Island (Feb. 19)
Trav: This looks good. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a U.S. Marshal investigating the disappearance of a murderer at a hospital for the criminally insane in Martin Scorsese's latest movie.
SHE: I’m usually not a big fan of Leo but this trailer has me intrigued. This looks like it has real potential.
Trav can can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
SHE can be reached at email@example.com