I’m sure by now many have seen “Paranormal Activity”. If you haven’t, then don’t continue reading, there are some spoilers ahead.
One of our readers, BellaBoo, posted a link to the James Randi website (skeptical website) in which a writer reviews “Paranormal Activity”. I must tell you that I really don’t understand where the review is going. I think it is by far the worst review I have read about the movie. Why? For the simple reason that it’s written in the “pseudo-skeptic” mentality. The one where a person claims to be skeptic by nature, but really are just close-minded individuals.
Joe, Gary and Myself are skeptics. We DOUBT everything we see, read and report on. We doubt that ghosts haunt and torment people (at least I do). “Doubt” being the keyword here. We are always open to the possibility that maybe there are external forces that cannot be cataloged by science. Forces that have yet to be measured by any known device. Forces that are either from a person’s psyche or from an ethereal place. We DOUBT, but not deny.
The review was given by Alison Smith, from the Randi.org web site. I have read plenty of articles by Alison Smith. I enjoyed a lot of them. I think she has a good head on her shoulders most of the time and is a good writer. When I came across this particular article, I was reminded of how pseudo-skeptics operate.
Let’s look at the second and third paragraphs in the article:
Because of Paranormal Activity’s dishonesty, you also wouldn’t know that the film starred actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat. You wouldn’t know that the film was shot over seven consecutive days in a home that Peli purchased that has no record of paranormal activity. Peli doesn’t want you to know that by seeing the movie, which appears to be composed entirely of found footage given to filmmakers by a local police department (according to a caption at the beginning of the film).
But, let me back up for a moment and let you know – Paranormal Activity is a massive waste of time, even ignoring its deception. The film documents the trials of a couple, Katie and Micah, and their difficulties with a demon that has been following Katie since she was a child. They call in a psychic, who apparently has a PhD in something since they refer to him as ‘Doctor’. They think about calling a demonologist. They play with a Ouija board against advisement.
So it talks about the Writer/Director Oren Peli. How his film was dishonest and was shot entirely in the director’s home. Mentioning again that the film is deceptive and in the article, Alison Smith points out that the main protagonists are just actors. That the psychic that went in to investigate the home could possibly be a fake doctor.
OK, so it’s at this point in the article that I don’t understand if Alison really thought that this was supposed to be real.
So I continue reading…
But the real problem here is not the plot, which is nonexistent, or the writing, which I’m pretty sure actually was nonexistent. The problem is that the film is cashing in on the appearance of being a true documentary. It’s cashing in the way The Blair Witch Project did, except The Blair Witch Project wasn’t dishonest.
The film was altered (the theatrical ending is different from the original), and re-released by Dreamworks and Paramount with the help of Spielberg, which is why you can now see it in theaters everywhere (though I hope you don’t).
I’ve never recommended boycotting a movie, a book, or a piece of music based on the belief system it represented. But I would love it if we all boycotted Paranormal Activity. Not because it’s phenomenally bad, though I feel better that it is since you won’t be missing much, but because its intent and its success have both feet firmly planted in deceit.
As I left the theater, all the people who left before me milled around outside the doors, talking to one another in loud voices about their belief that the footage was real. They shared their own paranormal experiences. They had a grand discussion about ghosts.
And I wondered, as I often do, why we, the public, keep allowing ourselves to be defrauded to line someone else’s pockets.
In the article, Alison Smith then starts to attack the way the film was written. Saying that there is no plot. A plot is a storyline. The movie has a story line. A minimal script was written, but mainly the actors had to “act” out scenes. Although it’s a new way that filmmakers are finding effective, improv on screen seems to bring out the real talent in actors. Alison then states:
The problem is that the film is cashing in on the appearance of being a true documentary. It’s cashing in the way The Blair Witch Project did, except The Blair Witch Project wasn’t dishonest.
OK, so now I understand. She’s upset because the film was painted as being a true documentary. OK, I understand how someone can be upset over that. Just like the article I wrote about the upcoming UFO movie “The fourth kind“. The only difference is that I had a real reason to gripe.
The movie “The fourth kind” purposely created fake evidence and fake doctors and their websites and threw them all online to help sell the idea that this was all real. That is a major screw up. (read my article)
Alison is complaining that this movie is deceptive because it presented itself as a true documentary.
I understand that, but as a fellow writer and “skeptic”, I feel that you can’t mislead your audience by attacking a horror movie in such manner. You are not debunking anything. The movie is completely made up. Imaginative and effective.
This is what horror movies are. They play on your emotions and relate to you in such ways where you sit there watching them and think to yourself…”I know what that’s like”.
Alison’s goal of boycotting the movie is overly dramatic. Maybe we can just boycott the people who actually believe such marketing ploys are real….and there are a lot of them.
I check my websites stats daily. I’ve notice an increase of hits from search engine searches that start off with “Is Paranormal Activity real”. A lot of people believe that what they saw on screen is a real life haunting captured on tape. Don’t ask me why, I just look at the stats.
So I think it would be more effective to educate the public so that they can be more aware of what they are reading or watching. Attacking a movie in such manner like this review of like “Paranormal Activity” seems like an easy way of getting approval by other “skeptics”.
The movie is not an Oscar winner or intellectually stimulating, it’s just simple, raw and effective terror.