I turned down the lights and watched Paranormal Activity this weekend with high hopes of being generally freaked out. Overall, it was good, especially given the budget under which they were working.
I’m more drawn to the mindfuck type of movies rather than those that try to frighten through gore or scary monsters. When the enemy is unseen and left to the imagination, the fear is more gripping. When you go through a whole movie with an unseen terror and try to reveal it in the end with a cheap scare tactic, well, that just ruins it. I appreciated the movie right up until the end when they blew it.
I’ll focus on the theatrical ending because that’s the one more people have seen. But to be honest, the alternate (original) ending in which the girl slices her throat feels equally out of place.
There’s a pitifully cheap and overused tactic used extensively in scary movies that goes a little something like this:
- Seemingly normal person standing calmly
- The scene lasts a second too long and the character looks confused
- Oh gods! He/She jumps snarling at the camera, transforming mid-leap to have big pointy teeth and angry eyes
- Instant blackness in which we assume the cameraman is dead
Not cool, Hollywood. Not cool at all. Whether the protagonist is a zombie, vampire (traditional, emo, and/or sparkly), werewolf, or possessed suburbanite, this type of thing is used all over the place in movies and especially in previews. And it isn’t scary in the least.
This is the bread and butter of the haunted house industry and only marginally more frightening in person. At least in that context, the monster is attacking a human being. In Paranormal Activity, the girl gets all snarly and pointy teethy in her lunge at a friggin camera. Come on, how lame is that? Seen from a different vantage point, it has the effect of pouncing upon a Dust Buster. There is no point to it other than to cheapen an otherwise promising horror movie.
I think it’s about time this tactic is retired. I was saddened when Paranormal Activity ended like this. Up until that point, I thought the movie was cool. We only had limited glimpses at the terror and that type of unknown is much more frightening than the cliched ending they chose.