“Paranormal Activity” trailer

Diane,

The trailer for this buzz-accumulating ultra-indie horror flick has just come out, and here it is. It’s not getting a wide release any time soon, so we may as well talk out of our asses for a while, eh?

My thoughts:

– Interesting idea for a trailer, showing the audience at the screening almost as much as the movie.  They are focusing on the immersive theater experience and building on the “scariest movie in years” hype they were already getting.  Good marketing for horror buffs.

– The faux-documentary, faux-real gimmick has been done to death.  It may work here and it may not (little hard to tell from this amount of footage), but I have to say, I’m getting bored with it in general.  If we’re striving for gritty and a more realistic feeling to absorb the viewer, what’s wrong with the 70s approach – flat lighting, low-key performances, long shots – that have worked so well for many a classic movie (horror and otherwise)?  Or how about emulating the “Children of Men” approach, which somehow merged the documentary idea with the old school, pure-cinema rollercoaster ride?  Of course it’s harder to do either of those things on the cheap.  Still, I don’t feel like I need to see many more movies where every camera shot is coming out of a camcorder held or set up by one of the characters in the movie.  Maybe I’m being too curmudgeonly though.

– Hard to get a bead on the acting, but that is often a weak spot in these kinds of movies.  Cast unknowns in this specific type of movie and you REALLY need realistic, believable performances for it to work.  Unfortunately they are often stilted and over-emotive instead.  “Blair Witch” suffered from it, as did “Cloverfield” at times.  The gold standard for me is “Alien” – the cast weren’t unknowns but weren’t A-listers either, and the movie wasn’t documentary-style, but nonetheless it really felt like a gang of real people, working away at a tedious, dirty job in the middle of (literally) nowhere.  Until the screaming started, and that also felt very real.  It’s a high bar for indie filmmakers to have to clear, but they bring it on themselves with their choice of aesthetic; I think viewers (myself included) are much more forgiving of bad acting in a campy slasher movie than in a “Blair Witch” type of movie.

– The two concerns out of the way, there’s some very good stuff here.  Parts of it do look very scary.  My favorite bit (and clearly the trailer editor’s favorite, as well) is the sheet billowing up as the couple sleeps, like some invisible thing is crawling underneath it.  I hope for a lot more of that.

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2 Responses to “Paranormal Activity” trailer

  1. Jim says:

    This trailer is great. I’m with you though, I’m a little concerned with the use of the documentary style. It looks, already, to me like it will work in bedroom scenes where the audience can experience the dramatic irony of witnessing what the sleeping victims cannot. But, seriously, if you woke up and your girlfriend/wife had been bitten by some…thing…would it still be cute and funny (and not at all insulting) to continue carrying the camera around to the experts you seek out for advise and assistance? I feel already strained to have sympathy for these callous camera-carriers.

  2. I should have mentioned that – one thing that tends to be problematic in movies like this is that the continued filming almost always strains credulity. The filmmakers tend to either ignore it (“Cloverfield”) or throw in a half-hearted line of dialogue to explain it (“Quarantine”). They shy away from dealing with it realistically because, I suppose, it creates serious obstacles for straight-forward storytelling. However, it would seem like finding a creative solution would offer some artistic rewards. I did like the way “District 9” jumped from faux-documentary to a still-gritty but more conventional cinematic perspective… it was a little disconcerting but it was as if they basically said “hey, we can’t keep going with this and show you what you need to see; we’re just going to change it up and trust you to follow along.”

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