In an age of where found footage are plentiful and often generic, its easy to look back at Paranormal Activity and think of it as nothing more than another mediocre found footage flick. I’m not going to argue that Paranormal Activity is a horror masterpiece, but I will argue that it is effective and certainly one of the most decent horror films to come out in the last two decades. Paranormal Activity is a scary film, in a way not many people have recognized – and here’s why.
The Build Up
In the first act, we learn that the couple are being terrorized by a demon. This is revealed in the couple’s conversation with the psychic. Most would think this exposition decreases the film’s tension but it actually increases the tension.
The first couple of scenes quickly establish the modern, everyday suburban setting, a world of science and reason. So when we hear of a demon, a spirit that is ‘not a person’, its very unsettling. You think ‘what does a demon look? What are we going to see? Is it real?’
This set up makes the night scenes very intense because while we know what we’re going to see, we don’t know exactly how we’re going to see it.
As the film progresses the night scenes become more eventful, from doors swinging open by themselves to audible growls. Every time that room appears there’s a feeling of dreadful anticipation. You know something bigger and more monstrous is going to occur.
With this technique Paranormal Activity manages to sustain tension for long periods of time, a result not a lot of horror films have achieved.
Not all the horror takes place in the bedroom at night. During the day we see how the haunting has affected the characters. For a film with such a basic concept the plot has a lot of beats.
Every time the ‘demon’ makes a move the couple try to avoid it, only to be attacked again with more consequences. They lose sleep, lash out at each other, become paranoid in their own home all while the situation gets worse and worse. This with the build-up and suspense makes Paranormal Activity a very effective horror film and definitely of more quality than most modern horrors.
So if you ever watch the film again, try and watch it with someone who hasn’t seen it before because if you want to see Paranormal Activity’s genius, just watch someone seeing it for the first time.
Do You Think Paranormal Activity is a Great Horror Movie?
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