My double take on Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project

My double take on Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project

I’ve done a series of what are basically reviews in this blog, which I call “My take on…”  I don’t want to call them reviews, because it is more of my impression, than saying something is good or not.

In this case, I thought I’d call it a “double take”, because I am going to talk about and compare two movies…and I like the idea of a comic’s double take move. 🙂

I recently watched the original Paranormal Activity and the original of The Blair Witch Project.

Clearly, we probably would not have had PA if we hadn’t had BWP.  The similarities are obvious: they are both low-budget movies that are supposedly the witnesses own footage of something possible supenatural.

They were also both hugely profitable. 🙂

I have to say, I liked Paranormal Activity quite a bit more.  The key difference was in the acting.  The Blair Witch Project has performances that, in my opinion, seem quite histrionic.  Yes, there are people who are that stagey in real-life…but if that’s an acting choice, it seems unwise when you are trying to be credible to the audience.

On the other hand, I found Katie Featherston’s performance in PA quite convincing.  I didn’t think everybody pulled it off (there is a demonologist whose performance I had trouble accepting), but she was very naturalistic, very believable. 

That’s crucial here, but it’s not the only sophisticated thing about PA.  I liked the writing…in particular, director/screenwriter Oren Pell did a nice thing where time seems to be compressed…just because we are zooming through the digital video.

I try to avoid spoilers, so I don’t want to talk about the plots too much.  I will say I would have ended one of the movies on the order of a few seconds earlier.  That sounds subtle, but it changes the nature of the movie.  I won’t say which one, which should help avoid the spoiler effect. 🙂

I don’t want to minimize the importance of BWP…it really showed there was a market for what was effectively a “homegrown” movie.   They were also hampered by the technology…PA is a much more realistic-feeling movie, in part because many people actually have digital video cameras now: not that many people had access to the 16mm movie camera supposedly used in BWP.  What happened in PA made more sense…they were using the light on the camera to see what was happening.  In BWP, even though they tried to explain it as sort of compulsive to one character, it was hard to believe they would have kept filming the way they did in their situation.

So, what do you think?  Did you prefer BWP or PA? 

Feel free to leave me a comment.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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