If you're a horror fan in L.A., I'm sure you're aware of the fact that Paranormal Activity had a free midnight screening last night at the Arclight in Hollywood. (Not familiar? Think Blair Witch-meets-The Haunting, and check out the truly excellent trailer.) I was seriously chomping at the bit to see this movie, to the extent that a) I actually had a nightmare about it before seeing it, and b) I was more than happy to wait in a line for nearly 4 hours. So what's the verdict? Was it worth the wait?
Um...yeah, sorta. Here's the thing about this movie: In my opinion, it absolutely has the potential for greatness. All of the elements are there: A simple yet effective concept ("What Happens When You Sleep?"), a lack of CG effects, unknown actors in the lead roles, etc. At times, the movie is extremely effective. There were at least 3 shots that made all of the hairs on my arms stand on end. (When your body physically responds to a movie, you just can't argue about its effectiveness.) And one scene in particular, involving a trip to the attic, had me actually looking away from the screen just because it was so unpleasant. (Not gross - nothing disgusting happens in this movie - just really unpleasant.) I was ready to love it. I wanted to love it.
And then there's that ending.
I won't go into detail, because I don't want to ruin anything for anybody and this is certainly the kind of movie where the less you know the scarier it will be, but for me, the ending can absolutely make or break a horror film. If your film is kinda meh, but the ending is incredible, I'm sold; conversely, if the movie is really good but the ending is super lame, I walk out feeling cheated. This ending was definitely an eye roller. Tonally, it's completely different from the rest of the movie, and in my opinion, betrays the spirit of the film, which is a shame.
And guess what? It's not the original ending!
Apparently, Paranormal Activity actually had two different endings prior to this one - and, from what I've read, both of them were superior to what I saw in the theater last night. My favorite, of course, is the original. It fits the movie, and sounds truly terrifying. Without that ending, this movie is simply good; with that ending, it could very well have become a classic.
Would I recommend Paranormal Activity? Yes. It's fun, it's scary, and it's easily the creepiest new movie to come out this year. But keep in mind that it is flawed - not only because of the revamped ending, but due to that perennial horror movie downfall, the Character Who Makes Stupid Choices. Still, it gave me nightmares. Again. So, in the end, it did its job - and if you don't believe me, you can ask all the little hairs on the back of my neck. They don't lie.