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Dave sees PARANORMAL ACTIVITY at the Sydney Film Festival!

Hey folks, Harry here... I'm dying to see PARANORMAL ACTIVITY - there has been buzz on this film for years now - Dreamworks picked it up - and then... poof... I hear rumors of releases, but no evidence of it. God I want to see this...

Hey harry, I know you guys did a piece on the film Paranormal Activity a while back, giving it a glowing review, so thought you might be interested in another take. The film just screened last night at the Sydney Film Festival here in Australia. All I can say is - believe the hype. This is one of the scariest films I've seen in years. And it's not just run-of-the-mill scares either. It's unpredictable, hyper realistic, and left me (and much of the audience) physically shaking. The story is simple enough - a couple experiencing paranormal activity in their house decide to set up a camera to catch any strange behaviour while they're asleep - but it's the execution that really scores. The film divides into documented sections like 'October 6, 2006, Night #11" where we watch the bedroom via night vision while the couple sleep. The rest of the film deals with Kate and Micah's reactions the next morning and the growing tension inside the house. Initially the day drama feels like a relief to the horror sections but more and more it just accentuates our dread for when the next "night #" title comes up. By about Night #19 there were shudders and loud moans from the audience, as in 'I don't know how much I can take anymore'. Looking back though, the film really only has a few big scares (including one which gave everyone a collective heart attack). The real horror comes from this strange 'in between' space where you're not yet sure how to react or you're anxiously waiting for the characters to react, where all you have to go on are empty shadows and random sounds and your imagination takes over. The more you go crazy worrying about what will happen the less the film has to do to scare the living shit out of you. If the Ring freaked you out about leaving the TV on static, Paranormal Activity is gonna make you scared to even go to sleep. But what makes PA work as opposed to other DV horror (like Open Water) are the performances. At first they seem like non-professional actors - there's no particular realism they're trying to achieve, it feels kind of goofy, amateurish. But then you realise it's because there's no fourth wall. They don't act 'real' because it feels like they're not acting. Without the aid of a script, Kate and Micah succeed in not only making you believe but making you care. Kate jokes around but has that sense of insecurity of just moving in with her boyfriend; Micah is protective but secretly relishes the idea of confronting an actual demon. At first they react like any other contemporary couple would react - with a reflexive, detached attitude in which the horror is just something cool to record, something to joke about - but as the happenings increase, the film turns that distance against them. This is ultimately what makes PA more than just a horror film - it fully meets the challenge of how to create horror in the wake of the digital age, in an age where technology and the internet are having an increasingly demystifying effect, where the attitudes of Gen X and Y are permanently set to ironic. So many horror films can't seem to get past this smug knowing attitude, where every shock is already ironically contained and the scares are predictable no matter how scary they try to be. As much as these films try to scare you they always give you a safe distance from which to enjoy the film. There is no distance with Paranormal Activity. Our comfort zone, our sense of superiority, is already depicted (and subverted) in the characters and on the screen. So much of the time we are watching Kate and Micah rewatching what happened while they were sleeping, or researching on the internet a similar case, or examining the audio for signs. Yet despite all this, when the horror does actually happen, we don't know where to look, what's going to happen, or where to retreat. PA somehow engages our own reflexive attitude, twists it and throws it right back at us. When the film ends, it ends with just a white screen and some subtle digital interference and strange sounds. The lights don't gone on. For about five minutes, the audience didn't know how to react. Again it became just pure dread, not knowing if something else was going to happen. Eventually someone waved their hand in front of the projector allowing the audience to laugh. The laugh though was a nervous one, conscious that any reaction was better than the horror of no reaction, of uncertainty. But the most shocking thing about the film? The fact that not only have Dreamworks yet to set a release date (the film was first screened in 2007), they may have remade the film. I recently found out from someone who saw the film over a year ago that the ending I saw was the edited down,"not nearly as good" "alternate" ending. The original ending was apparently "10 minutes longer and very different, much more intense and brutal". This makes sense since the ending I saw felt like the one time the film went Hollywood, where that annoying, self conscious irony seemed to be reflected by the horror rather than twisted around and thrown back at the audience. It was a little too obvious for a horror film that constantly challenged how you reacted to it. Having scoured the net for any information on the film's final cut I have come up with naught. There are a growing number of fans for this film and even more people who are dying to see it. Why isn't there more of an outraged push from the fan sites to keep this original ending? Why is one of the scariest films of the decade being royally fucked over by the studios without protest?? Dave
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