So I went to Blockbuster today and, in honor of Valentine’s Day, rented Paranormal Activity. The clerk at the counter looked at my DVD and said, “Can I ask you, are you renting this because you think you might like it, or just out of curiosity?” I told him I suspected I would be disappointed in it.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling coquettishly. (OK, so it wasn’t coquettish, I just like that word. Did I misspell it?) He told me it wasn’t very good. I told him he could probably be fired for discouraging customers. He sprang out of a slouch and informed me that, to the contrary, Blockbuster encourages employee honesty — good or bad — in movie recommendations. I was surprised by that. Good on you, Blockbuster.
So now I was twice warned, most recently by this would-be Tarantino at Blockbuster, and the first time ten years ago when I made the mistake of taking my two prepubescent nieces and their friend to The Blair Witch Project. That movie, for the uninitiated, was another ultra-low-budget horror flick with amazing word-of-mouth. The scariest thing about Blair Witch turned out to be the distinct possibility that someone seated behind you might at any moment puke down the back of your seat in reaction to the hyperactive, herky-jerky cinematography. That was scary, and so were the horrifying closeups of the female star’s nostrils.
So how did Paranormal Activity stack up? I was pleasantly surprised. The acting was fine, although the characters weren’t particularly sympathetic as written (she’s a bit shrewish; he’s a bit wimpy). Most of the special effects could be accomplished with a ball of string, and perhaps were. But for such a low-budget piece of filmmaking, there are some genuine chills, and I thought the ending was a hoot.
Would I watch it again? Probably not. But hey, Blockbuster dude, it was much better than Blair Witch. Grade: B-
Director: Oren Peli Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, Ashley Palmer Release: 2009
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