"Fun Fact: the Porn Version Looks Almost Exactly the Same".
"Paranormal Activity" revived several trends in horror flicks, most notably the hand-held "found footage" set-up popularized by "The Blair Witch Project". The first film especially was a modest effort. Two actors, the director, no camera crew, a WEEK of shooting and a miniscule budget resulted in what eventually became a blockbuster hit, spawning several sequels (including one that comes out this year). It's arguably one of the greatest success stories of independent cinema. Legend has it that while watching the premiere people walked out of the theatre, not because the film was bad but because audience members were so scared that they couldn't take it anymore.
We here at For Your Inebriation have already established that we're skeptical folks. We ain't afraid of no ghosts. So how did we react to this modern-day spookfest? Join us for the "Paranormal Activity" drinking game!
"Paranormal Drunktivity": The Rules
1. Drink for Title Drops. That's the full title, "Paranormal Activity".
2. Drink for Daddy Issues
3. Drink when They Drink
4. Drink when someone verbally expresses fear. This can be a scream, or simply someone saying "I'm scared".
5. Drink when the found footage is examined by the characters.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink for actual Paranormal Activity. Whenever that demon comes out to play, bottoms up.
2. Drink for domestic activity. An upsetting amount of this movie is just Katie and Micah dicking around their living room.
3. Drink when we see the face of the primary camera holder. In the first film, that's Micah.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink when a date and time is given. Notably, when the film straight up tells you that it's "Night ------"
2. Drink for evidence of middle class wealth. We'll get to that
3. Drink for extreme close-ups
Krissy Pappau: Scardey-cat (Medium)
Pooh Daddy: Waiting for the last fifteen minutes (Easy)
Williams: Never had a camera-toting friend (Easy)
Some Guy: Prefers more surreal horror films (Medium)
Dame Poppy Middleton: Hates Micah (Hard)
Shirley Whiskas: Double-hates Micah (Hard)
Dijan de Nero: Thinks Micah might have some good points (Hard)
Gunter: Doesn't understand how anyone could outdo Kubrick (Hard)
These people are solidly middle-class bitches. All the characters in the "Paranormal Activity" films are. This made Katie and Micah feel a little less relatable for our crew, but it helped our game immensely; for every object I pointed out earlier, we took another drink.
Hell, even the camera is a luxury that we can't afford. Micah says at the start of the film that the camera cost half of what he made that day at work. What's confusing is that Micah is a day trader, and Katie is a student. Neither of them have jobs that should give them the money to buy, or even rent, this kind of house, which is complete with two guest bedrooms and a backyard.
"Look at this place," Shirley Whiskas said as the camera panned around the second story. "You could easily fit five more people in here."
"Technically they have a roommate," Dame Poppy pointed out.
"They have a POOL?" Poppy cried.
That would explain a lot of things. But I can't afford to hire a demonologist, so we'll never know for sure.
I'm only sort of joking. The film sets up pretty clearly that the growing presence of the demon in their house is caused by the discontent forming between Micah and Katie. Obviously, when your boyfriend brings home a video camera and starts following you around with it, it's going to make you irritated, but if he then proceeds to mock a very real fear you have while holding said camera, it might make you want to feed him to the ghost.
The strength of this film is how much Katie and Micah do feel like a real couple. They argue about dumb shit, they goof around on their couch (or in their pool), they have inside jokes. But they obviously have some fundamental problems with their relationship. Micah does not come off very well in this film, as he is presented as the main aggravator to the demonic presence in their house. Any chance he gets he tries to communicate with the demon, antagonize it, or threaten it, and whenever he does so, things get much worse.
This is really shitty because Katie, his long-term girlfriend, is constantly telling him not to do these things and he does them anyway. He's straight-up ignoring her, playing down her fear and refusing to consider that he might be part of the problem. Shirley Whiskas and Dame Poppy especially spent a good portion of the film heckling Micah's poor decisions, and Shirley's opinion of Katie lowered because she chose to date him in the first place.
As Some Guy points out, the two of them feel like a real couple in that this relationship shows all the marks of being under strain, of being workable and good most of the time but unable to weather any real stress. If the demon wasn't real, if Katie just suffered from paranoid delusions or even extreme anxiety, Micah would still be doing the wrong thing by insisting that he's the only one who can protect her. This is especially true because Katie's been here before and knows what this demon is capable of, so the fact that the person she trusts is ignoring her opinion is bullshit. This makes her deterioration near the end of the film even sadder, because even if an "expert" in the field couldn't help her, he could give her the illusion of safety. Micah can only give promises he can't keep, and his machismo gets them both in serious trouble.
Kids, the lesson here is to not date people who don't listen to you. Or else a demon will possess your body and kill him.
Why is Nobody Screaming?
Well...if you want to get scared, I can tell you what you shouldn't do. You shouldn't watch this movie surrounded by drunk assholes who are tearing down the production value. Or picking apart the plot holes. Or talking over the slow bits.
These criticisms are totally valid. "Paranormal Activity" doesn't do anything that you haven't seen before. What it does is take old horror film tropes and presents them in a way that SEEMS new and fresh. For example, midway through the film Katie gets temporarily possessed and wanders around their house, eventually ending up in their backyard where she sits on their gorgeous porch swing until Micah retrieves her.
It's a classic shot and there are many like it. What the whole movie amounts to is a bunch of stage magic pulled of exceedingly well. Pooh Daddy and I had to keep reminding people that there was no camera crew on this set. All of these tricks were pulled off manually, and in such a way that you can't see the strings. These stage tricks coupled with the straight-faced usage of horror film standbys such as "photograph that should have been destroyed" and "spontaneously shattering glass", as well as ample time used to build tension make this at the very least an entertaining and interesting film, if not a scary one. On a purely technical level, this movie earns its reputation as a modern horror classic.
Drink whenever someone says the word "demon".
Since the film doesn't get a proper title drop at any point, this is the closest thing.
Drink when Micah or Katie mention another person by name.
Being hunted by a demon makes you pretty self-involved, but occasionally they'll bring up the demonologist who's supposed to help them, or family members.
Drink when Katie and Micah get in a fight.
For Your Inebriation is written by Krissy Pappau (Hollis Beck). All "Paranormal Activity" images are owned by Paramount Pictures.