Welcome to a new feature I am experimenting with, Date Movie! Horror flicks are great flicks to take a date to or to watch with your honey… unless of course your date or mate hates horror flicks then there’s always the latest from Sandra Bullock or Channing Tatum. Horror flicks are a lot of fun to get scared with and hold onto each other and well… hopefully you can take it from there. But, you have to choose the right horror flick as something too mild won’t provide the proper scares and something too nasty or violent might put your date out of a romantic mood or make it your last date… unless for that rare occasion where they are into the rough stuff, then maybe you should be a little afraid. So, I am going to try to focus on flicks I think are perfect for scaring the object of affection into your waiting arms… the rest is up to you.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)
Paranormal Activity began screenings at film festivals in 2007 but, it wasn’t until 2009 when Paramount Pictures picked it up (with a little help from some guy named Steven Spielberg) and, after briefly considering remaking it with major stars in the lead, wisely decided to release it with only a few tweaks including a new ending. the rest is history as the series has now grossed over $700 million worldwide. Not bad for a flick that cost only $15,000.
While this series has divided some fans, I enjoy them and I especially think this first flick was very effective and quite spooky fun. It’s a simple found footage flick that uses an old fashioned smoke and mirrors approach which is refreshing in a time of CGI overkill. This movie uses your imagination against you, as nothing is more frightening than what your own mind can conjure up and Writer/Director Oren Peli knows it. The movie starts out with an attractive young couple, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) who are experiencing some odd occurrences in their home. Gadget happy boyfriend, Micah decides to get a camera and set it up in their bedroom to capture whatever is happening when they sleep. Obviously, they find they are not the only occupants in the house but, what has moved in has targeted Katie and is far from a friendly ghost. Oren Peli perfectly manipulates the audience throughout the 90+ minutes of the flick’s running time. You know something is going to happen, the ominous rumbling on the soundtrack tells us so. You also know it will be worse then what came before, as the incidents are escalating, but, you don’t know what or from where and by the time it happens, our imaginations have got us so transfixed in tense anticipation that we jump out of our seats when it does. The fact that this happens at night while the protagonists are sleeping adds to goose bump factor as they are at their most vulnerable as would we be. The characters are portrayed by then unknown actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat so, they come across as real people and are likable and sympathetic. Katie is a strong spirited girl being slowly broken by the supernatural presence that seems to be targeting her. Skeptical boyfriend Micah is stubborn, prideful and can be a bit of a jerk sometimes but, his love for Katie seems genuine and sadly, his attempts to protect her only provoke and escalate the malevolent entity. Another thing that makes their performances so genuine is the Oren Peli cleverly let them improve their roles. His script was a basic story outline and both actors improvised their own dialog and thus gave life to their own characters. This really makes you believe you are watching the events unfold with a real couple. Featherston and Sloat also have a real great chemistry and their interaction with each other makes their relationship seem real and it is key in making the movie work. They and Director Peli also give the invisible yet malicious entity a strong and threatening persona despite the fact that we never see it and this makes it the threat it needs to be for the film to succeed. And it does. The last act and climax still give me chills and goose bumps even when watching it now. My one complaint involves a cheap scare involving a CGI image (the only CGI in the movie) that I felt was unnecessary. I understand that the filmmakers wanted one more jolt to give the audience at the point it occurs but, I actually thought what was there was creepy and unsettling enough and the actor involved was providing sufficient chills without the cheap scare… but it worked so, I can’t hold it against them too much. Spooky, fun, minimalist horror and an inventive use of the found footage format that, while not creating it, gave it a massive push into becoming a major sub-genre!
Read more about Katie’s character in “Why Do Good Scares Like Bad Girls?” here …
…and my in-depth look at Micah Sloat’s character here
So, the film gives us a young couple whom you and your date can identify with and provides plenty of chills and thrills to get you reaching for the comforting arms of your equally spooked companion… that equals a strong 3 and 1/2 on the Date-O-Meter!