A friend invited me to go see Paranormal Activity today, and I’m glad he did because had he not told me about the good reviews the film has been getting, I would have continued thinking it was just another one of the terrible, un-scary horror movies that have been passing through theaters lately. It’s not. It’s actually quite good and jarred me enough that I think it might stick with me through the night.
Walking out of the theater, I formulated a little theory about the film and have decided to share it here. However, if you have any inclination to see Paranormal Activity — and you should, if you appreciate a good scare and Blair Witch-style handheld camerawork doesn’t nauseate you — then I think you should skip this post for now, since I’ll give away much of the film’s plot.
Whether the writer-director intended to do so or not, he created interesting parallels between the film’s big bad — a nameless, shapeless, almost unseen demon — and Micah, one of the film’s two human characters. Essentially, the movie works like this: Katie, the heroine, has been plagued by paranormal activity most of her life, and though her boyfriend, Micah, knows this, he refuses to listen to her when the two discuss how they should remedy their situation. When Katie wants to call an exorcist, he tells her the idea is stupid. When Katie suggests that his decision to video document the strange phenomenon could be what’s angering the demon, he keeps the cameras rolling. And when a psychic explicitly forbids them to attempt to communicate with the demon through an ouija board — doing so could open up a door that can’t be closed, the psychic explains — Micah does so, even after promising Katie that he won’t. In short, Micah is a jerk who doesn’t really seem to have Katie’s best interest at heart.
Which kind of sounds like the demon itself. This entity focuses its attention on Katie — that is, it’s not attached to a particular house but to Katie herself — and like Micah it pretty much does whatever it wants to her, regardless of how she feels. If you view the film as a battle between Micah and the demon over Katie, then the demon has more of a claim to her, as it has been with her a lot longer. It’s not explicitly stated in the film, but it seems like the couple has moved in together fairly recently — and, really, that could be what prompted the recent flare-up in bumps in the night — but Katie and Micah’s relationship still feels fairly tentative; they’re only “engaged to be engaged,” as Micah tells the psychic, and Katie only seems to have recently mentioned to Micah of her invisible friend. Again, I don’t think it’s explicitly stated, but it may well be the case that Katie only told Micah about the demon because of the recent strangeness. Had they been closer or had Micah been less of a dick, Katie might have told him a lot sooner.
Perhaps because he still doesn’t believe Katie, Micah continues to taunt the demon, calling it “worthless” and daring it to show itself. This shitty attitude, in addition to the cameras, makes the demon bolder than it ever was before. It seems appropriate, then, that the film ends with an apparently possessed Katie waking up in the middle of the night and walking downstairs, beyond the view of the camera stationed in the couple’s bedroom. She screams bloody murder and then commits bloody murder when Micah races downstairs to rescue her. (How he plans to do this, given his lack of any demon removal system, is perhaps only known to Micah.) Finally, Katie trudges back up the stairs and tosses Micah’s corpse directly at the camera. We’re given only a close-up of possessed Katie’s contorted face before the screen goes black — blacker, really, since this scene takes place at night — and the non-credits roll. (There’s nothing at the end of the movie aside from copyright info and a note that the events are, despite appearances, fictional.)
It seems especially appropriate that dead Micah gets tossed directly into the thing that pissed the demon off in the first place. The fact that Katie does it — possessed Katie is still Katie, after all — is a nice touch: Even if she’s been completely consumed by this dark entity, she’s finally able to put Micah in his place and punish him for steamrolling her every effort at agency.
Katie had managed to survive her demon-infused life so far on her own. It’s Micah who screwed everything up. Moving in with him made everything worse, but even if she didn’t have to contend with demonic forces pushing and pulling her — sometimes literally — she’d still be an oppressed, suppressed, repressed person if she continued to live with Micah. He’s no demon, but he is a shitty boyfriend, who didn’t hesitate to shove a camera in her face when she asked him not to or infuriated her demon to the point that it completely overwhelmed her. I guess the demon won the fight, in every way possible, but by taking Katie and making her and it one, it totally triumphed over his feeble promise of “engaged to be engaged.” Demon says, “Dude, now I’m in her all the time. Beat that.”
Some women just have bad taste in men.