Before reading my thoughts on Paramount's "Paranormal Activity" please watch the 1 (one) minute video below. It is not a spoiler for "Paranormal Activity," nor does it contain clips from this Hollywood blockbuster. However, it is germane to the blog and although it may seem silly it is very important that you watch every second.
I'm giving you time to watch it.
Now, if you have not seen the movie "Paramormal Activity," don't worry, there will be no spoilers here. I am not a movie critic - I'm a filmmaker and a film enthusiast. I can really get into the spirit of most things cinematic, and of course I'm a huge supporter of independent film.
After a very tough week, I decided to try to see a film with my son who is 24, and like me, a movie buff. He had already seen "Zombieland," which I really wanted to see, but a friend of mind at work told me about this new "Blair Witch"- like movie called "Paranormal Activity." I told my son about it and he had not heard of it. So we googled it and found a lot of hype - which piqued our interest. Then we saw a commercial on TV which showed crowds reacting and claims of people running from the theater. In my "Indie Film" feed on Twitter via Tweetdeck, distant Tweets were talking about fans "voting" somewhere to get this scary "Indie Film" into wide distribution. It was playing in a big theater on several screens about 30 minutes away.
What the hell? Right?
It's all for the cause. It's all for the support of independent filmmaking. This is what I want! I want to see handmade digital movies get discovered and be shown to a wide audience.
This screening series, The Annapolis Pretentious Film Society, was created to showcase the great talent of independent filmmakers who are virtual orphans in the miasma of of a broken entertainment distribution and exhibition system. We are just a small, growing community- based screening outlet, but we are here to share the marginalized talents of a homegrown entreprenurial group of artists -- directors, actors, writers -- to people who want to see something different.
So I drove to the theater with high expectations. I was looking forward to seeing the next "Blair Witch Project," and coming back home to celebrate this Indie triumph in my little web of social networks.
Instead, I had an even more profound experience, which hit me about thirty seconds after "Paranormal Activity" ended. As I was sitting in the theater in the dark, I realized that I have never actually hated a movie in my entire life. True, I've told stories about deciding to become a filmmaker after seeing "Parasite in 3D" and thinking it was so bad, that even I could make a better film. But still, I didn't hate it.
I hated "Paranormal Activity" with the heat of a thousand suns, as I stated in a string of tweets on Saturday night.
Here are some of my select tweets from Saturday Night:
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY! -- I JUST SAW IT!11:19 PM Oct 10th from TweetDeck
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY! -- PARAMOUNT THINKS YOU ARE STUPID!11:20 PM Oct 10th from TweetDeck
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY! -- Ted Williams' head would HATE this movie.11:21 PM Oct 10th from TweetDeck
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY - Just take a $10 bill and set it on fire. It is much better than spending it on a movie ticket for this piece of s*%t.11:25 PM Oct 10th from TweetDeck
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY -- When this movie is showing for free on television -- DON'T WATCH IT! It's THAT BAD!11:27 PM Oct 10th from TweetDeck
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY - Seriously though. It really sucked. I felt robbed. I have never felt so much disgust walking out of a theater. #FAIL11:31 PM Oct 10th from TweetDeck
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY - I'm telling you... don't see it... I took a bullet for you. If you see this movie, you will feel enraged and cheated.11:36 PM Oct 10th from TweetDeck
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY - It is NOT "Blair Witch" - DON'T BELIEVE IT!!!11:38 PM Oct 10th from TweetDeck
- @Raydachic Crank 2 is Citizen Kane compared to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Seriously, when it's on TV for free - DON'T WATCH IT! It's that BAD!
- @mrbarnard1 I just can't even recommend it as a train wreck. It killed brain cells, I have lost IQ points!12:27 AM Oct 11th from TweetDeck in reply to mrbarnard1
- When the lights went up after PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, I was so mad I wanted to twist my enraged head off and throw it through the movie screen!12:34 AM Oct 11th from TweetDeck
When the lights finally came up, no one in the theater seemed happy. People were talking about getting their money back, saying they were robbed, and talking about how they felt it was a waste of time. It was very quiet with murmurs of "sucked" and "bulls#*t."
Then, collectively as an audience, we did a walk of shame past three carefully grouped lines that were brimming with excitement. The lines were shoulder-to-shoulder waiting see "Paranormal Activity." We just walked and walked and each line for the next movie showing kept getting longer and longer, and it felt like there were five hundred people in each line, their faces lit with the excitement and anticipation of movie magic. Spontaneously, the departing audience began to jeer and warn the waiting audience.
"Ahhh, you're going to get robbed."
"Get your money back now."
"That movie was terrible!"
...were some of the things said during our exit from the theater.
I won't even go into what happened during the movie in the theater. Like the real policeman -- YES, REAL POLICEMAN -- who came up into the audience to tell teenagers to quiet down after they laughed at one of the "scary parts." Or the assistant theater manager with the Astroboy haircut who stood at the front corner of the screen just staring at the audience. Oh yeah, we also got a pre-screening lecture about how scary the movie was going to be.
After sleeping on it, I think I have figured out why I want to bitch-slap this movie and tell everyone NOT to see it.
- In my opinion, it is not even a movie -- it's a gimmick, a boardwalk carnival sideshow. When I was a kid, I saw a woman change into a gorilla right before my eyes on the boardwalk amusement pier in Ocean City, Maryland. After she turned into a full gorilla -- she broke out of her cage and we all ran!
- It is being hailed as "The new Blair Witch." It is not.
- It is being buzzed about as if it's some kind of indie wunderkind movie. I think this is what bothers me the most.
I have been seeing some great independent cinema. At our two APFS screenings (Jamin Winans' "INK"
and Alex Karpovsky's "WOODPECKER") we had audiences who actually came in cautiously, not knowing what to expect, and left feeling enthusiam and a shared sense of discovery. Both of our small crowds left with smiles on their faces, and talking animatedly about independent movies.
What kind of perception of DIY independent filmmaking is "Paranormal Activity" going to leave with the masses?
I'm not sure how our APFS audience would react to this film. But I'm sure their collective mood wouldn't be the rocky mountain high that "INK" leaves you with, or the knee-slapping, head-scratching chuckles of "WOODPECKER." Our audience, although pretentious (of course), are at least polite. If I started the screening series with "Paranormal Activity," I don't think they would come back like they did for "WOODPECKER" after they saw "INK."
There are good movies that are being ignored by the distribution system. Just this morning I saw a tweet asking why theaters are shunning a movie called "CARRIERS," that is supposed to be really awesome. People want to see it, but it's hard to find.
So I know this might not be a popular blog subject for some. I know that this movie was picked up and that there's some filmmaker attached to it somewhere. But it seems that it has already made a lot of cash and I'm sure what I'm about to say isn't going to bring down the walls of Dreamworks or Paramount: Don't waste your money. See another movie at the Cineplex or if you want to support independent film, buy a copy of "INK" or order "ADVENTURELAND" on Pay-Per-View.
Here is my best suggestion: Go to Kickstarter.com and pledge $10 there. That is one of the places the True Indie Film resides.
Thank you for your interest in Independent Film and thank you for your involvement.
Curator - The Annapolis Pretentious Film Society.