Horror Tip: Paranormal Activity

Name: Paranormal Activity
Type: Film
LinkImdb Page

Paranormal Activity (PA) is like a mix of Blair Witch Project, The Haunting and The Exorcist. It follows a recent trend of first-person/documentary movies like Rec and Cloverfield that I really enjoy and which works great for horror flicks.

The entire movie takes place in a house where young couple, Micha and Katie, lives. After Micah finds out that is fiancée has some kind of poltergeist haunting her, he decides to put up a camera and get to the bottom of what is happen. The movie then slowly builds up tension, by showing of more and more evidence for the “poltergeist” and creating an increasingly threatening situation. This is classic ghost story telling and it works very well. I had some issues with annoying characters and such, but nothing I couldn’t really put a side (after all, if I can suspend disbelief for ghost, etc I can handle some stupid characterizations). On a whole it is a solid and quite scary movie!

The most interesting thing about the movie, and the reason to bring it up, is because it features so familiar environments and situations. The house they live in is by no means a classic haunted house and most of the paranormal events are quite toned down. Yet, the filmmakers have managed to slowly and carefully build up dread to the situations and because of the familiarness of the events and locations, it really manages to get under your skin. My favorite part are the night scenes in which one just views the couple sleeping in a very ordinary looking bedroom. A low frequency sound is slowly built up and finally some strange event(s) occur. The simplicity in this setup is what really drives the movie home and makes it very easy to relate the events.

I wonder if this sense of the familiar and everyday life could be used in a videogame? Games like Silent Hill use familiar environments but there is always a layer of filth, and creepiness added so that, while making you feel frightened, also makes you more distant. When it comes to events happening in most horror videos games, it is even worse. Here there is very little (if anything at all!) that can be related to everyday life.

The reason is mostly that normal life has not so much fun gameplay in it, but I think this really bad when wanting players to connect the events experienced to things in their own life. I think this is something that needs to be more explored in videogame and while Amnesia (taking place in a spooky castle in the 18th century) does not do much in this regard, I hope to explore it more later on. Cause while I do not feel the fear, watching PA, like I have done playing horror games (like Silent Hill, etc), it sticks to me in a way no other game has. When I turn off a videogame, there is no uneasiness left in me, but after watching certain movies late at night, like Ringu and now PA, I feel that some of the fear, totally irrationally, still lingers inside me and makes me dread common place objects and surroundings.

I see no reason for movies (and books) to be alone with causing these feelings and think that if properly executed, games can do it too. Given that games are so good at evoking in-game fear, if this could be combined with a connection to real-life as well, then fictional horror could really be taken to the next level!