There isn't much that's gonna scare a 41-year old horror fan who has been watching and reading this stuff since he was 7. One of the reasons I think THE BLAIT WITCH PROJECT disappointed so many viewers were early comparisons to THE EXORCIST and claims of being "The Scariest Movie Ever." I enjoyed it, but didn't find it half as scary as all the hype procalimed.
10 years after BLAIR's shaky, home-style camera work, there have been many imitators. The tripodless-shooting style has even been adapted by legends such as George A. Romero (DIARY OF THE DEAD) and a big budget monster flick (CLOVERFIELD) among others. Neither had the effect that BLAIR did, nor BLAIR's grossly underrated predecessor, THE LAST BROADCAST.
When I started hearing buzz about PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, a film allegedly shot for somewhere between $11,000 and $15,000 in a single home with a camcorder, I rolled my eyes, especially with the buzz it was getting. When I saw the trailer (which featured a jumping/screaming audience at a test screening) I really began to get suspicious.
But then I saw the film. Not sure what to make of it, I saw it again 3 days later.
While the film does look very professional (causing one of my friends to think this might be Hollywood trying to dupe us, which is believable as there's almost no credits before OR after the film), it still has a grainy-type of feel that has been the benchmark of many classics (such as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead).
Studio conspiracy theories aside, PARANORMAL ACITIVITY works. A simple idea is played up to the max: a woman named Kate claims something has been haunting her since she was a kid; her live-in boyfriend begins to videotape their bedroom at night, and when he begins to capture sounds and strange sights, he becomes obssessed with finding out who or what is causing it. The director's ability to force the viewer to use his/her mind works as well here as it did in the (mostly) suggestive film, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. Aside from a couple of cuts and bruises, there's no gore. There's no sex or nudity to get your mind off what's going on around our 2 characters. Even the daytime scenes of Micah and Kate watching footage from the previous evening help to set up the next sequence's tension.
Who would think the simple acts of seeing a light turn on by itself in the middle of the night, or a psychic being freaked out and abruptly leaving the house could cause more chills in an audience than 100 gore-filled horror remakes combined?
After two viewings, I can say that horror fans who are still willing to use their imagination will most likely appreciate PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. At the very least, no one can deny that the simpler a film is (especially a horror film), the stronger its impact CAN be when done the right way. Here's a fine example.
(PS: Non horror fans will probably have the crap scared out of them by this, and fans of occultic horror should dig it).