Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I've never seen a film that's scared me. That's not me trying to sound manly. I've seen films that I recognise as being scary, but they don't actually make me feel scared. It's just a film, after all. So I watched Paranormal Activity, which is apparently so scary it stops people sleeping. It's based on the idea that bad things happen while you're asleep, and that some creaks might not be the wind. It might be a demon coming up the stairs to drag you out of bed by your ankles. That sort of a thing. Here, a woman lives with her boyfriend in a nice house and is convinced that something spooky is going on. The boyfriend is less convinced and sets up a camera to film the bedroom while they're sleeping. The film uses the 'found footage' style, where the camera is part of the story and we only see what the characters choose to record. I'm easily impressed by this sort of thing. The roughness makes it real and it gives you a sense of physically being there. And, appropriately, nothing happens for the first few nights apart from some ambient rumblings. Everyone becomes skeptical enough to relax. Then bad things start happening. The famous still frame of their bedroom is the most effective gimmick. It's just their bed and the dark landing outside the door, with stairs leading down to the living room. If you stare at it long enough (which you will, because there's nothing else to look at) you'll believe there's something there. It plays on the most effective horror device - suggestion. What you imagine to be coming up the stairs is much more powerful than anything it could show you.

Of course, it's not all creaking doors. As it ramps up, and each night becomes a bit worse, the ambient rumblings give way to more sinister things. It's true that the rhythm of the film is: Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. Boo. Or occasionally: Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. Thud. Thud. Thud. Sometimes there's thuds and then a boo. And it is, admittedly, all very tense. One significant boo made me lurch forward quite quickly. But was I scared? I was worried for these characters, who seemed like nice people in a very unfortunate situation. I was scared for them. I enjoyed it. I slept fine.

1 comment:

  1. I know I saw The Exorcist at a very impressionable age (11, blame the older brother and his future wife who stole me and my younger brother into the cinema) but I didn't sleep during the hours of darkness for at least 3 months after seeing it, and it still scares the pants off me. I do a good impression of Regan's devil voice, only as soon as I've done it, I wish (to God) I hadn't.
    I love scary films. The Exorcist is not a scary film. It is a waking nightmare.