Monday, November 9, 2009

TBG (Finally) Sees: Paranormal Activity

Of all the "holidays" that married people "celebrate" – and, trust me on this – anniversaries are the first to go. The wedding anniversary is just Valentine's Day minus the toxic possibility of biting into a cherry cordial as you pick through the last remains of that heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Mrs. Bootleg and I celebrated 2,557 days (sigh) of marriage this past weekend. And, somewhere between our first wedding anniversary and the seventh, "celebrating our anniversary" turned into "going to the movies…and, then MAYBE getting a drink afterwards, if we're not too tired".

Much to my surprise, Mrs. Bootleg agreed to see "Paranormal Activity". Y'see, when it comes to movies, my wife requires four things: an easy-to-follow exposition, an uncomplicated conflict, a climax that ties up EVERY loose end and – most importantly – at least one actor she can recognize.

Just one peek at the previews and it was clear that Mrs. Bootleg would not be 4 for 4 on this night. So, why on earth would she be interested in something like this? My answer came as we settled into our seats, 20 minutes prior to the start of the movie, as she turned to me – in all sincerity – and asked:

"So, what's this movie about?"

Good: Hey, it's set in San Diego! 619, represent!
Booyaka! Booyaka!

Not-So-Good: The film opens with "thanks" to the families of the fictional characters and the San Diego Police Department. The whole "this is all real" conceit made sense – kind of – in a film like
Cloverfield. Considering where this movie ends up, I'm not sure it worked here.

Good: The final five – maybe ten – minutes are terrific. They serve as a satisfying sprint to the finish line and pay off on almost every plot point, including the subtle (an unaware Katie occasionally watching over Micah while he sleeps) and not-so-subtle (that damn camera).

Not-So-Good: I will grant that passable character development in a movie where the protagonists are as in-the-dark (see what I did there?) as the audience may be too much to ask. But, Katie and Micah were all over the map, sometimes. Why was Micah so loyal to Katie? Was it love? If so, why was he so quick to defy her at multiple points in the movie? Did he believe the "demon" theory? Then, why was he so dismissive of the ghost-chasing doctor or so nonchalant when the target of the unseen beast's ire became readily evident in the scene with the broken, defaced picture frame? And, why was Micah rushing to look behind shower curtains and climb into attics. What the hell was he going to do if he found this…"thing"?

Good: The entire scene involving the psychic's second visit to the house was phenomenal and in refreshing contrast to the nonsensical instinct to run towards the danger. Smart guy senses danger, smart guy gets the hell out. He even throws in some of the best-delivered, least comforting words of support he could muster on his way out the door. Brilliant.

Not-So-Good: This spirit has been following Katie around – off and on – since she was eight years old. 15(?) years later, she can't sleep, she can't eat and she's clearly losing her mind. After the psychic initially refers her to a demonologist, why does she wait two or three weeks to call the guy? Fine, this is explained in the movie, but it's a stupid explanation.

Not-So-Good: I liked "The Blair Witch Project" and aside from the similar camera-y aspects, I don't know that I agree with those who are quick to compare the two. The claustrophobic feel of "Blair Witch" was like a gradual reduction of the screen from vast expanse of forest to the final scene where the post-nasal drip chick gets it. From the get-go, it already feels like I'm staring through a shoebox in "Paranormal". It's a fine line between "tension" and "suffocation".

Not-So-Good: And, then there was Katie's sister. You remember Katie's sister? Halfway through the film, it's established that Katie's kid sister heard and saw everything that Katie went through as a child. Hell, they shared a room! Yet, somehow, this fairly significant plot point was never revisited. Not even in a "she died in the fire" cheap-out attempt to make the audience forget about her. Why mention her at all?

Verdict: I wanted to like "Paranormal Activity". Really, I did! Unfortunately, I found myself audibly at odds with the characters and the plot far too often to enjoy it.


Josh said...

I'm assuming you missed several key plot points, like the mention of Katie's sister, because you and Mrs. Bootleg were yelling at the screen.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, Micha was retarded. Clearly shit was getting serious and they put off the call to the demonologist for so long. Plus, the minute I saw a fucking video of a Oujia Board catching on fire after it moved via magic I would be freaking the fuck out. Micha totally deserved what he got because he was such an idiot.

That said, it was stil decent and pretty spooky sometimes.