The entire world, it seems, is touting Paranormal Activity as the scariest movie in the history of ever, a film so frightening that your eyeballs will defy the laws of science as they up and die from terror-induced heart attacks. There's so much effing hype surrounding this movie that over 4,000 people lined up for a free midnight screening in Los Angeles. Trailers and teasers don't need to show much beyond audience members jumping out of their skin.
Is it worth all the hype? Well, everyone's going to have a different opinion on that, which is why I detest "hype". Movies get talked about and talked about to a point of total saturation; then people actually see the movie and instead of simply enjoying a film for what it is, the criticism becomes about expectations not met. In other words, "Yes it was scary, but my eyeballs didn't have heart attacks as I thought they would and therefore this movie sucks and why do I ever listen to hype?" Sure, we've all experienced movies that turn out to be not quite as good as we'd hoped, but what I'm talking about goes beyond that. I'm talking about people who buy into the hype and walk into a theater with their arms crossed and a "Scariest ever? Then prove it." attitude. How could a movie ever please an audience like that?
So...don't believe the hype. Or rather, don't pay attention to the hype, and don't get your cynical on- after all, everyone's "scariest movie ever" is going to be different. The Exorcist still freaks my shit out beyond belief, but plenty of folks laugh it off. Meanwhile, someone out there, I'm sure, can't sleep at night after a viewing of Child's Play. Diff'rent strokes and all that, you dig?
I went into Paranormal Activity without having read any official reviews and without so much as watching the aforementioned trailers. I didn't want to know anything or see anything: I simply wanted to believe that this movie was going to be really effing scary. Waiting in line last night, my friends and I were bundles of energy, SO READY for this movie, hoping it would be well and truly terrifying.
Paranormal Activity is a throwback to films such as Robert Wise's The Haunting: it proves that noises and dark corners are all you really need to make a horror movie...well, horrifying. It's amazing what can be accomplished with a well-placed sound effect- your imagination fills in the blanks and the next thing you know, you're holding your breath.
I held my breath a lot during this film. I had goosebumps for minutes on end. I could feel my eyes open as wide as they'd go...then I reverted to my ridiculous childhood defense of squinting, my philosophy being if my eyes were already closed halfway, when something scary happened I could close them all the way much faster. Yes, my eyeballs had heart attacks.
When I got home in the wee hours of the morning, I was glad that my roommate was sleeping soundly not far away, because yes, I would have psyched myself out of sleep. Paranormal Activity plays upon your fear of things that go bump in the night, that feeling in your stomach when you're awakened in the dead of night by a creak in the living room. Watching it alone at night with the lights off seems to me an insurmountable task- even after I've seen it once.
That said, it's certainly not a perfect movie- the end may be a bit problematic for some (though, to be honest, I have no clue what would make a stellar conclusion to it), and there's not a lot to dig into when it's over. However, Paranormal Activity absolutely accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to scare the shit out of you. Horror movies these days seem to forget that scaring the audience should be, you know, a goal...but not this movie. It's incredibly effective on a primal level and as a fan, I simply could not have been more happy. It was everything I wanted it to be, and I can't wait to see it again...but no, I won't watch it alone.
I don't know, am I feeding into the hype I'm asking you to ignore? Eh. It was really fucking scary, and that's that. If you'd like to judge for yourself, then go to the Paranormal Activity website and demand that it plays in your town, dammit. Small horror movies screening in theaters is always a good thing, right?