Demon vs. Dick 1: Sloat Happens

[Contains static, tripod-mounted SPOILERS!!!]

Katie Featherston as ‘Katie’ in “Paranormal Activity”I finally got around to watching Paranormal Activity (2007) this week, but I don’t think I saw it under the ideal conditions. A slow-burning, supernatural suspense story like this one should really be seen in a darkened cinema, surrounded by speakers, so that you can really immerse yourself in the experience… rather than sat in a sunny bedroom, watching it on a knackered TV, with banal commercials breaking the tension every twenty minutes or so. It’s perfectly possible that if I’d seen it on the big-screen when it was first released, then I would have been reduced to a shivering, snivelling scaredy-cat… rather than the bored, fidgeting sceptic that this viewing produced. That said, I know I’d never have the drive to get something like this made off my own back, and I can still appreciate some of the movie’s plus-points…

Katie Featherston as ‘Katie’ in “Paranormal Activity”The problem with a lot of post-Blair Witch “found footage” flicks (and I’m thinking particularly of Diary of the Dead here) is there’s no plausible reason for the characters to keep lugging cameras around (and stopping to reload/recharge them), when they should be running and fighting for their lives… but here, the conceit makes perfect sense, with a tech-obsessed young man seeking to document the spooky noises and movements that occur in the house he shares with his girlfriend. The fact that his girlfriend frequently tells him to put the camera away also helps to answer the question of why he keeps filming to the bitter end… the answer being that he’s an insensitive dick, who cares more about making a “cool” video than hearing and respecting her feelings, or avoiding antagonising the demonic forces that torment her. And I’m glad that his dickishness was a consistent plot-point, rather than something that the writer/director was blind to, and we were simply meant to forgive or suffer through without a pay-off. I was pulling for his death the whole way through, and couldn’t help viewing the violent ending as a “happy” one, no matter what happens in the subsequent sequels. Apparently the original ending (before Paramount bought it, and tinkered with it) had the girlfriend being killed by some random cops, which would have been a real downer for me… so I’m glad they reshot that final scene (and didn’t shoot her!).

Katie Featherston as ‘Katie’ in “Paranormal Activity”Despite my relative comfort and detachment, I did find a couple of scenes genuinely chilling and unsettling… the first being the Ouija board catching fire, and the second being the part where the girlfriend is dragged out of bed by an invisible assailant. Everything else was pretty much water off a duck’s back though, sad to say. One of the strengths of Blair Witch is that, even though the story was contrived and the protags were hired actors, they were really living out there in the woods, reacting to disturbing noises they heard and creepy artefacts they found, so there was a raw, realistic edge of desperation and fear to their performances… whereas the scenes in this movie were filmed out of order, without a set script in place, and sometimes the acting isn’t quite up to snuff, when it came to contrived scenes like the one where the boyfriend discovers a burned childhood photo of his girlfriend in the attic. I just didn’t feel they were sufficiently freaked out by something that would have had me peeing my pants in their place. Apparently the whole thing was shot in a single week though, so that’s not meant as a comment on the talent of the cast… given a polished script and some rehearsal time, who knows how much better that scene might have been?

As I say, I probably wasn’t in the right headspace to start with, but I also kept being distracted by Katie Featherston’s décolletage (which is just a fancy way of saying I kept staring at her boobs). I doubt her low-cut tops were the only reason for this movie’s unparalleled financial success, but I’m willing to bet they were a factor…

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
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