The Paranormal Activity movies have always walked the thin line between two type of horrors.
The first type is the slow, building type that adds the horror coaxed from your own mind with the suggestions and realizations presented in the movie. It’s completely psychological and forces you to stay on your toes during the movie so that you aren’t caught off guard. This kind of horror seeps slowly into your mind and burrows itself into your brain. It’s hard to shake off this type of horror once you leave the theaters.
The second is the average blockbuster: fast, gripping; it takes your mind and fucks around with it a little bit. And when I say fucks… I also mean that there are usually some completely unnecessary sex scenes. It psychs you out with some fake outs and leaves you squirming because you know that the real horrific scene is most likely the next one. Like most physical beatings, the lasting psychological effect of the movie is little to none
with good therapy.
The first Paranormal Activity is an excellent example of the first kind of horror–although I have to say that they overdid it. I was on my toes so much that they became numb and I could no longer feel it. Nothing happened at all, except for one piece of furniture per night video until the last half hour of the movie. This is a one-and-a-half hour movie; this shouldn’t be happening. I paid to be scared shitless, not to be bored shitless. I lost respect for people who said this was the scariest movie ever.
Paranormal Activity 2, however, fine-tuned things and produced a movie that was worthy of my fear. It was the perfect speed of building terror that was missing from the first movie without resulting to cheap tricks. I admired them for not developing Sequel Syndrome–trading the essence and effect of a good movie for a larger, revenue-generating audience. If I have to be completely honest, I was peering over my huge Squishable that I was gripping tightly during the last 30 minutes. The fact that they took the last few terrifying minutes of the first movie and integrated it into the second movie capitalized its horror.
Now, I recently went to see Paranormal Activity 3 with a few random people, and I have to say I’m disappointed. Unlike its predecessors, this movie jumped right into the action. I clearly remember saying to my friend, “It’s ok that we missed the first 10 minutes of the movie… we would’ve missed some of the boring parts.”
How wrong I was. By the time we found seats and situated ourselves, I was already jumpy–the first sighting had already occurred! Was this movie from the same producers? There were multiple fake outs and the plot didn’t even make sense. This movie was more visual; instead of letting the audience freak itself out, it explicitly showed (in sometimes ridiculous ways; read: I was laughing my ass off) the personality of the evil spirit. We’ve learned time and time again: there’s nothing more scary than the unknown!
They also introduced completely new ideas in this one that had never been mentioned before, such as the Wiccan symbols, groups, or cults. What? Paranormal became too paranormal in this case.
[rant] Another thing that pissed me off was the inclusion of its first ever sex-like scene, but more awkward and less pornographic. It’s been a long practice of horror movies to link sex to horror and I’ve always hated it. Why are they necessary? What do they add to the movie, other than an awkward situation when trying to have a good scare with your family. Not to mention that it’s because of this linkage between sex and violence that perpetuates the objectification of women. [/rant]
Also, what about our unanswered questions? Like why didn’t these girls remember what happened in their past? What about those scenes in the previews that were just… not in the movie? I hope they didn’t purposefully leave those parts out in hopes of scraping out yet another sequel, because this series had already peaked a movie earlier.