Paranormal Activity

I watched Paranormal Activity this weekend and I thought it was surprisingly pretty good. It’s kind of in the same genre as “The Yellow Wallpaper,” in that you have a women to whom and around whom weird things are happening and whose husband/boyfriend is more interested in “science” than in believing the woman about her own experiences.

So, it feels like a weirdly feminist little morality tale. The girl repeatedly does what her douchy boyfriend wants, even to her own detriment. She forgoes actual experts even though she knows she’s in danger in order to allow her boyfriend to take care of a problem she is sure he doesn’t really know how to handle because, as he says, she is his girlfriend and this is his house. She literally sacrifices herself in order to not risk violating his sense of himself as her protector.

The movie insists that the demon is after her, but I think it’s pretty clear that the demon is her. Not that she’s faking it, but that what it takes for her to survive in her life is to be so much less than her boyfriend, who’s not that great, so everything that gets in the way of that is removed from her, is something Other than her, is the demon.

Since she is split in two, she lacks the gumption that part of her would give her–to stand up for herself, to insist on her own well-being, to tell her boyfriend her wishes about what to do about her situation are more paramount than his wishes–and the “demon” lacks the moderating compassion she has.

And when the two parts are recombined, as they often do, the stronger part rules, much to the boyfriend’s detriment.

It’s interesting that the movie seems, in the end, about growing up, about making the leap from passive audience to one’s life to active participant. Of course, the active participant in a horror movie is usually the horror itself.

That’s what about it reminds me of The Yellow Wallpaper–how a woman who can’t move naturally eventually ends up moving in unnatural ways.

Of course, you could also read it as “Your girlfriend’s old boyfriend is a bigger badass than you and now he wants her back. It’s not going to end well for you, sorry.”

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4 thoughts on “Paranormal Activity

  1. I was just telling the Butcher that I give it a solid “B” maybe “B+” as a movie and as a horror movie, I might even give it an “A-.” I wish it had ended about 15 seconds earlier than it and I wish the demon didn’t appear to have chicken feet, but except for those two things, it’s hard to find much to complain about. It’s nicely done, even if not perfectly done.

  2. So glad to find this. I had a similar interpretation of the original PA movie, which has since been eroded by the sequels. Sadly, these have devolved into some corny (and misogynistic) tropes: Old witches making deals with demons and offering children as collateral. But the first film still stands on its own. Katie refers to a shape standing by her bed when she was a child, alluding to sexual abuse by some adult predator. Then her house burns down mysteriously. Like may such victims, as an adult she picks a possessive douchebag man-child for a boyfriend. The douchier the BF gets, the more intense the “paranormal activity” gets. The so-called demon is the physicalization of her not wanting to take it anymore. This reaches its apex in her lethally throwing him down the hall, knocking over the video camera he’s been tormenting her with. Problem solved, and this time, homegirl didn’t even need matches. How could ANYONE not get this, let alone the directors of the sequels?

  3. Well, we are right. It’s so plain in the movie that it’s hardly fair to call it subtext. It’s practically the text.

    I’m glad to know that about the sequels. I hadn’t seen them (because the first one seemed like a thing that didn’t really need any more), but I’ll be sure to stay away from them now.

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