Friday, October 16, 2009

$13,000>Transformers 2

As an avowed horror movie junkie, I had to check out the highly-buzzed-about new flick, Paranormal Activity. It was made for $13,000 with no recognizable actors, gore, or special effects. It's a close cousin to The Blair Witch Project, but with less mystery at the end. If you liked that one, you'll like this.

I can already project the trajectory of this movie. There's going to be a huge rush of praise, followed by the inevitable backlash of people who see it after being told how good it is, go in with their expectations too high, and proclaim it's overrated.

What I liked most is that I can tell you what's good about it. Remember what that was like? Before the days of big, overwrought, CGI nonsense like Transformers 2, G.I. Joe, and the excruciatingly awful-looking 2012 took over the multiplexes? Try asking someone what he liked about those movies. You'll get "It was hella cool" and "It had so many 'wow' moments" and "Megan Fox is hot."

Here's my breakdown, sans spoilers ("sans" means "without," for all my younger readers):

What's great about the film is that it plays with our feeling of safety. Blair Witch took place in the woods. Those people went looking for trouble. Paranormal Activity is shot exclusively within a young couple's San Diego house. We're trapped inside with them, and the claustrophobia builds. Furthermore, most of the really bad stuff happens in the bedroom, while they sleep. That's the place we all should feel the safest, but when we sleep we're never more vulnerable. That paradox played havoc with me for 90 minutes.

As per horror movie tradition, things start innocently enough with some soft thumping and harmlessly moved personal items, and the suspense builds from there. There's the typical macho arrogance from the alpha-male who thinks it's all a big joke...until s*&t gets real. And boy, does it ever get real. There are some slow moments, but the last ten minutes are as harrowing as it gets.

I wasn't impressed by either of the two main actors, particularly the woman, but they were passable enough to keep things in the realm of believability. The film's strength is the way the suspense keeps building with the use of very simple techniques that don't take an army of computer programmers. The use of stop-motion photography. A light going on and off. A menacing growl.

Low-budget success stories like this show that all is not lost for filmmakers who aspire to be more than glorified video game programmers or purveyors of torture porn. If you loved Hostel because "It was hella sick, bro," this flick's probably not for you. But if you are able to let your imagination run wild and don't mind being haunted when you turn off the lights, this is a pretty creepy Activity. Lol hahahahahahaha.


Anonymous said...

Okay, first time reading the Nolan's Rants blog--but I may have to be an active subscriber. Loved your comments about PA. I think Jon and I said the same thing-which was that we LOVE that this movie was made for such a low amount (the price of a hairdresser's weekly salary for an A-lister actor)--we heard 11K...and it is getting this much buzz and causing fear. I much prefer this type of scare (good old fashioned concept of bumps in the night and a video camera) than CG gore and bad acting (I did like the actors). My one complaint re: the "reality" of the movie was that she wore a bra to bed...Jon can justify it..but that bothered me...Jen Hart

Polish Pistol said...

Yeah, I'm glad that cinematography hasn't become totally lost yet, and though a "sick action flick" like G.I. Joe or Transformers might be a cool trip every once in a while, what movie makers are doing now is just kinda... stupid, really. They sacrifice story and interest and awesome little details for shock value and aesthetic pleasure. I for one prefer an intricate storyline to straight up action, but maybe movies just aren't the proper form of expression for that sort of thing. Maybe, just maybe, people go to the movies for a cheap (or is it?) two hour thrill, and that's it. I guess that's what they want; and that's just what they're getting.

Sarah said...

Have you seen the Visitants? When the cop died it was hella sick tight. Yo.

Nolan said...

The Visitants>Transformers 2