I remember ten years ago when I saw this scrappy movie called “The Blair Witch Project” in East Lansing, MI. Oh, we’ve all heard about it by now of course, but I saw it before all the hype set in — just before the tipping point when the film’s stars unveiled themselves and were on all the talk shows and went on to bigger and better things like Steak ‘n Shake commercials.
Never have I been so scared in a theatre before. Never. I actually had an upset stomach on the way home caused by all the stress and fretting during that damn movie.
I imagine this is what audiences who saw Hitchcock’s “Psycho” for the first time felt like. Here was an entirely new way of doing a horror/thriller, based on setting a tone, committing to an objective, and creatively finding ways to spook without relying on gore or a single frame of CGI. Simple ideas translating into big fears. As we all know, what’s in our own mind is infinitely more terrifying than any prosthetic or computer trickery.
“Paranormal Activity” I hoped would be the next “Blair Witch” for me.
Well, it wasn’t.
However, it’s still a darn good thriller. I still curled up into my belly button at times and had to force myself to look at the screen.
But the realism that drove “Blair Witch” was lost here. Why would these two seemingly smart, capable and privileged people let this craziness drag out so long? They call one psychic to come in, and he throws out some half-baked reasoning behind what’s happening, and they just accept that…without seeking a second opinion? Or at least attempting to leave the house and stay at a Days Inn to see if the demon or whatever follows them there, too?
I mean, if I saw some of that shit happening, I would do something. Call someone. Throw some holy water. Crack open a Bible. Something. Instead…they just go to bed and fret. And film.
What made “Blair Witch” work so well was the entire concept of powerlessness. These kids were lost in the woods, and when night comes — and it will come, regardless of whatever they might do — they *know* something will happen. But they can’t stop it. And each evening it’s getting worse. And that is terrifying.
If you’ve ever been lost in the woods with no cell phone and dying flashlights as the night gets darker…you know what I’m talking about. It messes with your mind. It’s happened to me before. Never again.
Anyway. I enjoyed “Paranormal Activity,” but it was a slight disappointment. However, only because it had so much to live up to.