Paranormal Activity - Commentary & Spoof

The surprise hit of the year, indie horror darling Paranormal Activity took theaters by storm during the month of October, emerging from its theatrical run as the most profitable movie of all time. This is an impressive feat, one that seems all the more impossible when one considers the film's budget was a paltry $15,000, almost half what it cost to make The Blair Witch Project, the other well known and profitable first-person-camera style indie horror success story. It is that low budget that allowed Paranormal Activity to become the most profitable movie of all time, for if more money had been spent making the film, the percent return would have been that much lower. Still, a domestic box office total closing in on $100 million dollars is none too shabby for a movie filmed in the home of its writer/director, Oren Peli.

Given that this was shaping up the the genre event picture of the year, you can bet that the Geek got his butt into the theater to see Paranormal Activity when it was released locally. I enjoyed the film immensely, but I am more than aware that the film isn't perfect. This is a slow burn type of film, one that gore hounds and action junkies are going to reject as plodding and, dare I say, boring. Much like in The Blair Witch Project, the main characters of Paranormal Activity spends the majority of the film's runtime bickering and not listening to one another. The characters' actions, well-intentioned or not, only serve to compound their growing problems, resulting in a helpless and frustrating experience for the audience.

Allow me to reiterate, I did enjoy this film. However, the ways in which the characters interact make me suspect that I won't be rewatching it too many times. The Micah character responds to the growing threat in a way that any rational person  would not. He chooses to ignore all of the signs that the situation is spiraling beyond his ability to control and illogically continues down the same misguided path. I understand that his hubris is a conceit necessary for the plot as constructed, but I would have liked to have seen a more realistic approach to the manner in which the characters address the problem they are facing. Instead of being bound together the escalation of events only results in widening the emotional gap between our protagonists, at which point the script devolves into an inane series of arguments and bickering. Not the most interesting turn of events.

All of that said, my mind began to wonder just how different the film would be if you took away the otherworldly elements. Given that there are few special effects, you'd have a film that was largely the same but whose focus was now simply the deterioration of a couple's clearly troubled relationship. You'd have a story that could pretty much belong to any person or couple in the world. At any rate, based on these characters, I don't think you'd have a very interesting film. Micah and Katie simply aren't dynamic enough to hold together a compelling narrative without the ghosts and demons supporting them. Without the paranormal activity, you'd end up with something pretty... normal.