This movie is both a good thing and a bad thing, and let me tell you why. So Katie has been haunted by some sort of ghost or demon all her life, and has finally gotten a house with her boyfriend, Micah, who is skeptical about Katie’s problem to say the least. He gets a video camera and decides to record everything that happens while they sleep, and this is the found footage of the aftermath. Looking at the numbers, this is one of the most successful movies ever made; sure you have Avatar which made $2.7 billion worldwide, but that had a bloated budget of approximately $425 million. This had a meager budget of $15,000, and the rate of return was 12:1 (even the return on the Blair Witch Project was roughly 10:1). To call this movie a sensation would be an understatement, as this has spawned three sequels and a Hispanic spin-off, and without even looking, I’m sure there’s more coming down the pipeline.
Now I’ve never actually seen any of these movies in a theater, as I think they are better suited for the small screen. I do typically like found footage horror movies ([Rec] is my all-time favorite horror movie), but hey, it’s a haunted house movie, so doesn’t it make more sense to watch it at home where the creaks and groans of the house settling can add to the effect?
This movie, as a whole, is something I admire. They were inspired with an idea, and they truly did more with less, utilizing a micro-budget to its fullest extent. This is bad because it directly led to a lot of lazy filmmaking. You have production companies that look at this on paper, see how wildly successful it was, and try to replicate it by also not spending money on their films. This is why you continually see twenty-something year olds that can’t act, the choice to shoot the film found footage to make the bottom line less, and products that are just lacking overall. At the same time, this is a good thing because it gets away from big budget Hollywood, and it’s hard not to support movies for being less exorbitant and extravagant. For better or worse, it all comes back to this one.
A critic I follow once made a comment about these movies that is impossible to unsee: this series is the Where’s Waldo of horror. The whole time you are staring at the screen, waiting for something to happen. The scares themselves are effective, and it’s so inexpensively made that you can suspend your disbelief into thinking this is remotely plausible. Now while I personally enjoy this, I do completely understand the people that have problems with it. The acting is just bad, and I suppose that could be to add to the effect that it is real, but that doesn’t change the fact that Katie Featherston is probably the worst actress in this entire series and they keep getting her back for every single movie. You have to fight questions like “who has time to edit all this footage together?”, and “why wouldn’t they at least try leaving the home, despite what the demonologist says?”. You have to deal with all of the most interesting elements being saved for the final 7 minutes, and it does drag in points during the day time when they are just a bickering couple. But you know what? I’m able to get past all of that, so this works for me.
Paranormal Activity (2007) ****
– Critic for Hire