The SHALLOWeen Series: Paranormal Activity & The Blair Witch Project
This Halloween season, I'm presenting a new feature: The SHALLOWeen series! I'll share a series of very shallow assessments of all the movies (and the one music video) that have ever scared me. Get ready... I'm a true 'fraidy cat.
Two movies that have constantly come up in the cultural conversation over what is and is not scary are PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Both are benchmarks in the found footage genre and were hailed as "revolutionizing" modern horror in their time. I'll say this right now: Despite hearing many arguments to the contrary, I think these movies are incredibly scary, and I think I can attribute that to my over-active imagination.
The first time I saw THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was on video, so I didn't experience the motion sickness many people complained about. I am also an "indoor" girl, so the idea of getting lost in the wilderness was enough to burrow into the darkest corners of my imagination and seriously bother me for days. And of course, the growing sense of desperation and fear among the main characters was contagious. Dread works really well for me. The very suggestion of it is hard for me to shake.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY worked for me on a similar level. The majority of the "found footage" in the movie was recorded on a stationary camera. That camera doesn't flinch when the demonic entity makes its presence known, so you must. Waiting and waiting and waiting for something scary to happen is the worst feeling in the world. And when that thing finally does happen, it's terrifying.
Funny story: I saw the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY on a chilly, late autumn night on the very last day it was shown in theaters. The theater was only half-full, mostly high school students. Of course, my friends and I were on edge the whole way through. At the climax, during the final suspenseful moment when you just KNEW something was going to happen, but it hadn't happened yet, a dude sitting down front JUMPED out of his seat and ran SCREAMING out the door, bellowing "OH NO! HELL NO! NO!" He broke the tension, but only for a moment. We all got that last scream.
That night, I went home to a tomb-quiet house, feeling scared and alone, straining to hear through the deafening silence any sound of doors creaking open and footsteps moving up and down the hall.