It has both gained a huge approving audience, and yet an insurmountable history of hatred all at the same time. Paranormal Activity has been quite the talking point for its frightful minimalism of horror and Blair Witch style cinematography; but these have been the very reasons why you either love or hate the film.
Turns out we at New Rising Media can never come to an agreement on any debate, so we've taken two polarising opinions from two divided editors. Hopefully they'll forgive each other soon; but we're not banking on it.
Helen Gould: "A genuinely good film with realistic acting and believable characters."
Paranormal Activity did not only for scaring me so much I didn't sleep for a week, but for being a genuinely good film with realistic acting and believable characters, and for actually having very worthwhile sequels (except the fourth).
Before I get into detail, I should explain: demons and ghosts are a particular fear of mine. What gets to me is that fight or flight doesn't apply. Serial killers you can run away from or kick in the crotch. You can stab a zombie in the face. But if a demon wants your soul, you've had it.
In Paranormal Activity, it's not just the demon that is the problem. The two main characters, Katie and Micah, spend most of the film fighting; it's as much a psychological study of two people under extreme duress as it is a horror movie. They are fearing for their lives and their relationship crumbles under the pressure, not to mention lack of sleep. However, I have no qualms with blaming Micah for most of their arguments.
Here's the thing: if you're ever being haunted by a malevolent supernatural being, don't yell at it to show itself. Don't mess with what is clearly its stuff, or use a ouiji board and encourage it, or refuse to get a demonologist in. And certainly don't stay in the goddamn haunted house - not that you can outrun it, but you can buy precious time. Of course, Micah is not genre savvy and does all of these things, usually against Katie's wishes (you know, the person who's been dealing with this thing all her life and probably knows a lot more about it than Micah). Still, I'm sure he learned his lesson.
Jason England: "For shame, Paramount."
I should really give congratulations to Paramount. The Youtube marketing, street team, and general viral hype machine really did a job on pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. Like its superior antecedent Blair Witch Project, this claims to exist as 'found footage.' But unlike this aforementioned film, that suddenly becomes an excuse for force feeding us a poorly acted (my mistake: "realistic"), poorly constructed, terribly directed piece of boring film that pays off only in the final seconds on a moviegoing public, which was quite frankly suckered in by slick promotion.
For shame, Paramount.
There's no way around this: it's just plain boring. The majority of the time surrounds the most idiotic suburban couple I've seen on screen in a long time, with Micah investing what must have been thousands of dollars into audio/visual equipment to find out more about the demon...correct me if I'm wrong; but that money could've been invested better into her mental wellbeing? Continue through to the male being a Ouija board defying imbocile, who follows a girl around with a video camera (that, to me, is the only 'creepy' part of this film) and you have 99% of this entire film. Proceed from this to a mere ten seconds of pay-off, and you have a flagrant 'middle finger' waved joyously at genuine fans of the horror genre.
No psychological undertones, no intelligently conceived scares. The moviegoing public of the 21st century has grown up, and it angers me when the bar has not been raised to develop with us.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.