"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue

**Find The Vault of Horror on Facebook and Twitter, or download the new mobile app!**

**Check out my other blogs, Standard of the Day, Proof of a Benevolent God and Lots of Pulp!**

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hump-Day Harangue: A Paranormal Activity Backlash? Are You Serious?

Movies are subjective, I get it. Especially when it comes to horror, a genre designed to provoke feeling more than thought. Yet, there are certain movies that seem to unite most horror fans, or at least seem to be examples of what a good scary movie should be, and so I'm occasionally surprised when fandom turns on them.

I'm not saying this is the case with Paranormal Activity. But I have noticed a bit of a backlash since the movie went into wide release not long ago. What started as a cult, word-of-mouth phenomenon has now gone mainstream. And so far, I've been sensing more negativity than I expected with regards to this amazing little film.

Inevitably, when an indy horror movie attracts a mainstream audience, there is bound to be a lot of disappointment. To put it plainly, most people are not horror movie fans, or at least fans of good horror movies. Show them a psychological spine-tingler, and they'll rail that it doesn't have a knife-wielding maniac running around chopping up teenagers. So that's part of the backlash, I suppose, these horror philistines expecting something far different than what the movie actually is.

But what I'm even more amazed by is the rising backlash amongst the horror community itself. Look, I'm not trying to say either you like the same movies I like, or you don't know what you're taling about. I guess I'm blinded by my own tastes to a certain extent, but I'm a bit confused at how those who truly appreciate horror could not have gotten a kick out of this movie.

Specific case in point: Rue Morgue Editor-in-Chief Jovanka Vukovic. I was highly surprised to learn that the editrix of the world's finest horror magazine was bashing Paranormal Activity. I know she's also gone on record as not liking Blair Witch Project--but frankly, so have I. Nevertheless, I found P.A. to be a far superior film, and was saddened to find that she had lumped it in the same category.

I had to wonder, will Rue Morgue be devoting an entire issue to the tenth anniversary of Paranormal Activity in 2019, as it recently did for BWP? Despite the fact that the Editor-in-Chief thinks it's a piece of garbage? Sorry, I know it sounds like sour grapes, but I can't help but get annoyed at the hypocrisy of celebrating a movie you admit to thinking is no good, and then publicly bashing a movie that does the same thing, only way better, right after the celebratory issue comes out.

Paranormal Activity is that rarest of things: a horror film that is actually extremely frightening. When one of those comes along, we have to cherish it, we have to shout it from the mountaintops. I guess people are going to like what they're going to like, but the notion of subjectivity in art only goes so far. After all, there are certain things that are commonly agreed upon. For example, anyone who tells you The Godfather is a terrible movie is a complete moron--I think we can all agree on that. Well, I can't help but be confused by anyone who tells me Paranormal Activity was no good or ineffective.

If you're going to tell me you didn't like it, at least have a well-thought out explanation of why. I can respect that. Not everyone has the same tastes in horror. Just don't be one of those people who tries to tell me that things like the new Prom Night or Friday the 13th are great horror movies and offer no explanation as to why P.A. didn't do it for them. Are you really looking to be scared? Or do you just get a kick out of violence? Those are two different things. I can appreciate both, but I am baffled when someone tells me that P.A. was not scary. Then what, by all the gods, is?? One Missed Call?

Again, let me reiterate that the vast majority of the reaction to this film has been positive. I just can't help but lose my cool A) when casual non-horror fans trash something that clearly wasn't meant for them in the first place, and B) when a major voice in the world of horror journalism seems to be so completely off-base, and yes, even a little hypocritical.


Woo Pig Brewey! said...

Good post. I think a lot of people want to find the "next big thing" and when some little film like this that nobody has seen comes along they all get on the bandwagon and trumpet it's greatness. Once it got huge and literally everybody knows about it, they turned on it and began looking for the next film they can claim they've seen that nobody else has.

Seems to happen a lot more in music. A little band is cool until everybody thinks they're cool. Then they "sold out."

The only other thing I could see is that I noticed all over the place it was billed as "scariest movie of all-time!" and that sort of hype lends to backlash pretty often.

Personally I think it's a good film and I really enjoyed it.

Jeff Allard said...

Every movie suffers some kind of backlash - that's inevitable. For fans of Paranormal it may seem impossible that others didn't respond to it in the same way but admirers of Blair Witch could say the same thing. What one person finds dull and uneventful, another might find terrifying.

Regardless of any question of its quality, though, I suspect that a lot of fans will reject Paranormal just because it's too popular and that there's no cool factor to be found in embracing it. Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, our little genre of film that we love so much, invites a certain amount of elitism. Invariably, there will be folks jumping on the bandwagon of hate just because its fashionable or cool to be different.

And its similar to the reasons Cracker pointed out for music and bands. We like to think of horror the same way, non-mainstream (we horror fans know the goods are with the indie filmmakers and underground stuff) and when something gets big, some go the route of hate and cries of sell-out.

I for one am not and I'm cheering on this little film that could. And I agree B Sol, its way more masterful than Blair Witch.

Chris H said...

Great post and subsequent responses. I remember being upset about the Blair Witch backlash when it came out because I really loved it. Since, I've grown to being content with knowing that when I personally enjoy something, it doesn't matter what other people think in the long run.

I guess what really bothers me is when people are superficially critical and can only mutter "it sucked" or "it blew" without any sort of real analysis.

Anonymous said...

OK, I haven't seen PA yet, or read the magazine you're talking about, so maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see what's hypocritical about their stance. They didn't like Blair Witch Project nor Paranormal Activity, that's fine. They're devoting anniversary coverage to BWP because, independent of their personal view, it is a phenomenon in the field of horror. I mean, maybe the editor of Sports Illustrated grew up in Boston and hates the Yankees, that doesn't mean SI won't do stories on them. If PA's still be talked about in 10 years, I'm sure they'll do a piece on that too.

Tenebrous Kate said...

First off, in the out-loud voice: I like YOU, B-Sol, so my comment is in no way a snipe at you or at *anyone's* enjoyment of PA :)

To put it frankly, I *hated* PA. Vocally. Passionately. And for reasons I articulated in my review (but won't rehash here). I think that any piece of media or art that someone really loves will inspire an equal amount of negative responses--the very things that hit a chord with the fan will hit a negative chord with other viewers. Content is polarizing! I think it has less to do with a viewer's need to cut down something popular (though this is doubtless a factor for some) than the fact that each viewer will bring his or her experiences and viewpoints upon watching a given movie. For example, I'm a big fan of fantasy and weird elements in horror films, and PA really had neither, so it didn't grab me. If one enjoys the more "it could really HAPPEN!" elements, he or she might love this movie for embracing those.

I don't find the RM coverage of BWP to be hypocritical. Jovanka is an editor, and is entitled to her opinions--she's producing a magazine that has wide appeal in the horror community, and I don't think that she sees herself as *being* Rue Morgue. There's a stable of editors, artists, and writers working with her on the magazine, and their combined viewpoints are what make it a success.

I have a really close pal who HATES Jean Rollin films, but he loves that fact that *I* am a fan. That makes sense to me! I disliked PA extremely, but I'm glad YOU and other viewers got a thrill from it.

B-Sol said...

Katherine dear, I was waiting for you to weigh in here, glad you dropped by. And actually, your review is the perfect example of what I meant by a logical, well-thought out explanation of why someone didn't enjoy the movie. That I can understand, more than just the guttural mumblings of "...that sucked..." that usually accompanies this kind of backlash...

Jean Rollin, eh? Have you ever written about The Grapes of Death? If so, I wanna read it. I ADORE that friggin movie.

Monster Scholar said...

Following in the thread of Tenebrous Kate, my comments are not meant to harp on those who enjoyed Paranormal Activity.

As I said to a commenter who basically called me out for my mixed review, I am conflicted about my feelings for this film.

It is a strong piece of psychological horror and I enjoyed the fact that it opts for subtly instead of out and out gore to scare the audience.

That said I was turned off by what the film had to say about female sexuality and the woman as monster.

My opinion has nothing to do with the film's now mainstream popularity and I'm glad PA continues to thrill audiences around the globe.

kindertrauma said...

I've been thinking about the exact same stuff but in the exact opposite way! I did not get PA at all but it did remind me just how much I appreciate BWP! I just watched Blair again and I gotta say I still enjoy it. Anyway, please believe me when I say that just because I did not like PA does not mean that I liked Prom Night! It's funny to me that so many positive reviews for this movie include a bullying comment suggesting that if you don't love it too you must be a Saw fan or have questionable taste. There is some horror elitism going on here as Planet of Terror suggested but if you ask me it's coming from the dogmatic PA fans.-Your fan, Unk L

senski said...

I find the whole notion of a "horror elitist" very amusing, because if there's any fans of a genre that have experienced more disdain at the hands of regular ol' cinematic elitists...

When a platform release works well - and PA's has done so brilliantly - the initial rush of public opinion is going to come from the highly-motivated, those people who were primed to have a positive experience. I know folks who drove four hours to see PA on its opening weekend, and when you do that, you're a bit hesitant to admit that you were duped after that kind of investment. You also saw it in a packed theater with like-minded audience members, which I believe had to add immeasurably to the experience.

But the reverse is true, as well. If you felt like you were made to wait to see it, especially in a culture that has us conditioned for instant gratification, you may have gone into that cinema with a chip on your shoulder. I'm not saying that's the case for everyone who disliked it, but I have anecdotal evidence that it certainly applied to some.

And to answer the questions...An hour and a half drive. On opening weekend. And I loved it.

Christopher Zenga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher Zenga said...

Hey B, I have been quiet for some time, but I had to comment on this! I believe PA suffered from a case of "Phantom Menace syndrome",
(I'll explain) the hype machine created by the marketing team on these movies birthed such an unreachable goal for both films.(how could there be more JarJar on screen than Darth Maul ????)

OBJECTIVE: Make a movie seem like the greatest thing since the iphone.

RESULT: the opposite will happen!
With limited release and the "demand it" campaign, PA created such a desire for the WORLD to see this film that when they finally did, the film on screen was not the film they had created in there heads. This movie was destined to be a failure.

Let me explain, When I say failure I say this only agree with B in that the mass public, nu-horor fans, raised on Hostel and saw films (both of witch I love) went into this movie with the wrong frame of mind. This film did not offer the re-make crazed gore mongers the experience they wanted, and the best part, it never said it would! It never claimed to be anything more than it was. My 2 cents, the viewer is to blame for that. If you wanted tits and blood why are you watching a ghost film?

no film will WOW everyone but it's not PA's fault for ruining your evening!

If you don't like a movie, that's fine. But don't yell at a plate of pasta for no tasting like an apple pie.

Later days,

Christopher Zenga

Andre Dumas said...

I too felt conflicted about this, and have to agree with Tenebrous Kate and kindertrauma. I just didn't have the same reaction that everyone else had and it really made me mad. I wanted to be scared so badly, I did! But I felt like I really needed to be in a movie theater to get the full affect of the movie.

For 1. the sound wasn't as thrilling as I assume it would be in movie theaters. Although I do hate that some movies are only scary when viewed in a theater with amplified sound- this movie is an exception. Also 2. My bootleg version was the original ending which I didn't find too thrilling at all.

I too found myself much more affected by the Blair Witch Project. I still can't really figure it out but I'm pretty sure it has largely to do with the environment of the woods as opposed to a house. That doesn't mean I was angry that the house in PA wasn't "spooky" enough, because I did love that it was in a nice, newly built and furnished home- it really honed in on the idea of the demon being attached and connected to Katie rather than the house.

But the Blair Witch Project was just...gah I don't know, it's like I could feel the cold and terror of those characters, but in PA I was just annoyed by Micah and his lack of tact and sensitivity to the situation. I really just felt like he thought it was a joke up until Katie got dragged from the bed. I know it's not a good reason and I have many more- but this movie really honestly trips me up in terms of figuring out my true thoughts.

The same thing happened to me in my review, and I just feel useless. I just really wish I had seen this under different circumstances- or maybe ouija boards that light themselves on fire just aren't my thing... I dont know! My head hurts. But I love your blog and I do have good taste I swear : (

Corey said...

excellent post. different things scare different people, so i could certainly understand someone not digging paranormal activity. kindertrauma is obviously more frightened by creepy sounds in the woods than by creepy sounds down the hallway, so it's no shock he prefers blair witch. that said, anyone who claims paranormal activity is 'total crap' is just being contrary, which is a common but misguided reaction whenever something is billed as 'the ______iest thing evar!' whether they found it as terrifying as billed or not, horror fans should be supporting this picture because it as an example of the types of films we wish there were more of. films focused on pleasing horror fans, not on how much money they can make opening weekend.

and to andre... were you really surprised that the film's effect fell short while watching a bootleg copy over the course of 3 viewings in as many days? what you saw was not the final cut of the film, the sound wasn't fully mixed and it had a different ending. not to mention the effect of the film (like blair witch before it) depends almost entirely on the group dynamics of being in a crowded theater (or possibly your own dark living room with friends) and your attention being focused on every corner of the frame. ignoring the possible illegality of a bootleg copy, i would claim that you haven't actually seen the film yet, and as such, maybe shouldn't be reviewing it.

as for me... i loved paranormal activity. i also love the blair witch project, but prefer the former. i also really dug the friday the 13th remake AND one missed call... so maybe my opinions shouldn't be trusted.

Andre Dumas said...

Correct you are Corey, hence my conflictedness. But I do still have a right to review like anyone else would.

I didn't expect anything by watching a bootleg I just really needed to see it and am not able to spend 12 dollars on a movie ticket (I chose to feed my cat instead) Opinions and reviews are just that, and I never said I don't support the film! I still loved it I just wasn't as affected by it as everyone else was, and it made me sad because I am a huge scaredy cat.

RifRaf said...

Just chiming in:

"But I do still have a right to review like anyone else would. "

I would argue that you have a right to review the bootleg copy that you saw, not the film Paranormal Activity that people will see in theaters.

As was pointed out, and you seemed to agree with or at least conceded the point, you didn't see the film most people would see in a theater.

I understand watching a bootleg copy, I've done it, but I would never review it or even give someone my opinion on it without a major caveat of the fact that I saw it fuzzy with odd sound by myself on a computer screen.

Justin B. said...

I'll be honest. I wasn't blown away by Paranormal Activity. And I so SO wanted to be. And maybe that was part of the problem. Maybe by the time the film was released in wide release (when I had a chance to see it) the hype had been build up far too much in my head that there'd be no way that ANY movie could meet the expectations that were set.

But as it is, I felt that Paranormal Activity was extremely repetitive. Every night, the same thing (with a few tweaks) happened to this couple. Yeah, if I was in their shoes, I'd be scared by the same thing happening every night, but as a viewer, it became pretty redundant.

And, really, not scary. I understand that others feel that it was, but I honestly wasn't affected by it. I can't exactly explain WHY it didn't scare me, but I know that it didn't. Perhaps I've just been too desensitized to horror films. Maybe nothing scares me anymore.

(For the record, I LOVE The Blair Witch Project, and I watched it again recently and still found it to be a highly effective film.)

And in Jovanka's defense, as the editor of a magazine, I believe that it's in her professional interest to put objectivity aside when it comes to covering a film like Blair Witch because despite her personal opinions on it, she has to consider her readers, many of which are big fans of the film. If she only featured films in the magazine that SHE liked, it wouldn't be a very good publication (and as it turns out, it is a GREAT publication, and one that I read monthly).

Me said...

I just want to say I just finished seeing P.A. and loved it. I love feeling the fear in a movie, which I'm pretty sure hasn't occured since I was...wait, never happened. I love the way they "trick" us into thinking this was a legit video recording released from the police department (a fact that in and of itself is pretty unrealistic, though). The movie was well made with very realistic emotions, which are also a rarity nowadays.

I'd also like to point out that I hated the Godfather and its sequals, and am not a moron. Mafia movies can and should be good, but that was an excessively long pile. Not to mention that it points out everything that was and is wrong with our justice system, and it pisses me off.

Brian, aka Hellstorm said...

senski said, "I find the whole notion of a "horror elitist" very amusing, because if there's any fans of a genre that have experienced more disdain at the hands of regular ol' cinematic elitists..."

It seems to me that reviews from "horror elitists" are sounding more and more like mainstream reviews every year, so I find this comment very amusing.

While PA may have worked as a short film - taking place over 3 nights - there simply wasn't enough plot to sustain a feature. At no point did I feel that Micah and Katie even liked each other - let alone cared for each other - so they seemed more like prisioners in a Saw film than an actual couple.

Chris Alexander said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NixEclips said...

PA had unlikable characters who did ridiculous things to make the movie last longer. Oh, and the movie was too long with too little happening, until the last third. There wasn't enough of an escalating sense of dread/futility to get my blood pumping. Disappointing.

Indian Stallion said...

"I am baffled when someone tells me that P.A. was not scary. Then what, by all the gods, is?? One Missed Call?"

Some recent movies that I found way way scarier/creepier than this one :

The Orphanage
Shutter (Thai version)

Alright the last one is a bit old.

But yeah I saw PA last night. Was bored out of my mind till the last 15 minutes. Oh and I found Blair Witch scary as well.

But to each his/her own.

viagra online said...

men are you serious? that movie paranormal activity is a real crap, men I sit and watching this movie with my girlfriend for a hour, after this my best choice was turn off the DVD player and go home, terror, where is the terror in this movie?.

Missy Y. (formerly A Case of You) said...

I don't know how I just came across this post, but I find that I am in the minority on this movie.

Here's my two cents: It was scary. There is no denying that. However, I do not think it has staying power. I do not think it will reward repeat viewing. It did not blow my mind. It was scary in the same way that most movies of its type are scary. It's just been a really long time since a movie of its type was successfully made.

So yes, it works (which is what really matters, I suppose), but it's not particularly original.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...