Back in May, a friend and I attended an advance screening at Paramount Studios for “Paranormal Activity.” I did some quick reasearch and every source heavily compared it to “The Blair Witch Project.” Given my dissatisfaction with that movie, I almost backed out. Also, the filmmakers and actors associated with “Paranormal Activy” were complete unknowns to the industry and this only added to my skepticism. Luckily, we decided to go. I know everyone’s barometer varies for what they classify as “horror,” but it definitely felt like the entire theater jumped out of their seats on at least five occasions. Obviously, there’s a difference between “frightening,” “scary,” “thrilling,” “grotesque,” and “shocking.” If anything, I was thrilled. Nothing is this film should leave you trembling. However, many scenes provided heart-pumping scares that simply made the whole experience fun.
When it released in the summer of 1999, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s “Blair Witch” was a revelation for horror cinema. The 1990s were a bad decade for scary movies. The vast majority of those that saw a wide release were derivative echoes of ‘80s slasher classics or high numbered sequels to old franchises like “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween.”
“Paranormal Activity” is now releasing into much the same environment that “Blair Witch” did. We’re mired in a stagnant pool of old ideas that, while they still have an audience, are failing to excite and spook in the way they once did. It will be interesting to see if the old formula of “reality horror” will manage to engage audiences and excite the industry in the way it did ten years ago. Earlier this week, “Paranormal” had a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s looking quite likely that we’re in for something special.
“Paranormal Activity” has been circulating around festivals for some time now, but I can see why Paramount wants it to seem “fresh” to American audiences. It’s being given a limited-release this weekend, so go see it if you can. I know horror films have sucked lately, but you’ll have a good time.