To many people, The Blair Witch Project was the king of the ‘cheap films about annoying people being scared into handheld cameras’ found-footage genre. But those people had better get ready for a shock – Paranormal Activity has effortlessly snatched its spooky, annoying crown.
If you haven’t heard about Paranormal Activity yet, you soon will. It’s been a sensation in America – dubbed ‘the scariest movie ever made’, it’s apparently so frightening that Steven Spielberg got the willies after seeing it and kept his copy tied up in a binbag so the demons couldn’t escape from it, which is both true and a very good reason to dislike Steven Spielberg. But what’s really got people talking is the money that Paranormal Activity is making.
Filmed in the director’s own home and put together on a shoestring budget, Paranormal Activity managed to make its entire production budget back four times over in each of the 160 screens it was shown in last weekend. And it still has a full American release – not to mention releases in 52 other countries – to look forward to. That’s a lot of money for what’s essentially a cheapo remake of The Exorcist where nothing really happens.
And, somewhat depressingly, that means we can all expect a truckload of rip-offs. Just as Pulp Fiction spawned an entire subgenre of rubbish films about people talking nonsense for 45 minutes and then shooting each other, and Basic Instinct spawned an entire subgenre of rubbish films about sexy murderers having it off with crap-haired policemen, we should expect a tidalwave of cheaply-made found-footage films trying to cash in on Paranormal Activity’s success within the next year or so.
So, if you’re planning to make a movie like this, I’ve got one word for you – don’t. Paranormal Activity is a one-off. You can’t replicate its success just by strapping a camcorder to your bedroom wall and paying an unknown actress peanuts to look a bit scared. And if by some fluke you do end up replicating its success, then people are only going to start making inferior found-footage rip-offs of your film. And so on and so on until every film released is a dirt-cheap found-footage movie. And do you really want to watch a Matthew McConaughey rom-com filmed entirely on CCTV?
No. Of course you don’t. So just leave Paranormal Activity as it is, please.