Another entry in my month-long celebration of all things Halloween
A number of comedians of color, most famously Eddie Murphy in his comedy concert film Delirious, have joked about how idiotic white people often are in horror flicks (i.e. staying in a haunted house instead of getting the fuck out). Well, I finally got around to seeing Paranormal Activity, the new out of nowhere horror hit currently in theaters, and it’s the perfect example of the dumb things white people do (or don’t do) when confronted with a supernatural evil. I think the film is well made and I can see why its old-fashioned scares are resonating with audiences, but I found it hard to lose myself in the movie when I kept wanting to scream to the characters, “what the fuck is wrong with you?!”
(SPOILER ALERT! Much about the film will be revealed in this entry so stop reading if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know what happens)
The plot of Paranormal Activity is fairly simple—Katie and Micah are a young couple living in suburban San Diego. Ever since Katie was a little girl, she’s been haunted by a supernatural presence. That presence has now returned and is stronger than ever so Micah buys a video camera to try to capture on tape whatever is responsible for the alleged haunting (Micah is a skeptic and has his doubts) and of course, all hell eventually breaks loose.
The film does a lot of things right. It clearly explains the distinction between ghosts (spirits of dead people) and demons (non-human supernatural entities who exist solely to fuck with you). Early on, we learn that the thing that is haunting Katie is a demon and that certainly makes the movie a whole lot scarier. But it is also shines a light on the crux of the problem: if a bad ass motherfucking demon were following me and messing with me, is doing nothing but setting up a video camera the best course of action?
OK, we get it, Micah doesn’t necessarily believe that what’s happening is supernatural and he’s a macho guy who wants to be the one to solve the problem for his woman, but let me share with you some of the fucked-up things they experience which is captured by his camera: the message indicator on his Ouija board moves by itself and then the board bursts into flames, Micah leaves baby powder on the door outside their bedroom and the invisible demon leaves tracks as it enters their room, the couple find an old photo of Katie in their attic that could not have ended up there under any normal circumstances, the unseen demon drags Katie out of bed and across the hallway. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s even more crazy shit that happens.
I don’t know about you, but if it was me confronting this, trying to deal with the problem alone and armed only with a camera is the last thing I’d do. Man, if Katie and Micah were Asian, they’d totally be calling in priests, monks, shamans, the police, Bill Murray and the Ghostbusters, pretty much anyone who has a decent shot at helping them.
But what do the white couple in the film do? They call one psychic who tells them he can’t help because his specialty is ghosts and instead refers them to a demonologist. But they don’t call the demonologist. Because Micah wants to deal with the problem on his own. What the hell is wrong with these people?
Now the psychic also tells them the entity will follow Katie wherever she goes. I know this is a way for the filmmakers to justify keeping the couple in the house, but come on! Any sane human being would still get the fuck out. Even if the demon follows you, wouldn’t you feel safer staying at the police station or a church or a university lab where professionals can observe what’s happening to you and maybe, oh, I don’t know–HELP? Is staying in a house where it’s just the two of you against this thing the smartest decision?
And speaking of the church, why aren’t these guys reaching out to them? In the film, Micah and Katie don’t seem to be religious people, but I’ve learned with white people that they find God pretty quickly when they have to. I would think being haunted by a psycho demon would be one of those instances where you would give the religious option a try regardless of your beliefs.
Now, by the time they finally call the demonologist a whole two weeks later, the dude is out of the country and unavailable to help. So the couple are left on their own with no other recourse. Which is weird because they live in San Diego. You’re telling me there’s no one else they can turn to for help in a major metropolitan city like San Diego? That there is only one expert anywhere in the immediate vicinity qualified to help them? Maybe if they lived in a remote cabin in the woods and their nearest neighbor was 300 miles away, I might buy this, but here?
Finally, is it just me or do you find it annoying that Micah is videotaping everything? I understand wanting to set up the camera at night while you’re sleeping to capture whatever is haunting you, but sticking the camera in your girlfriend’s face while she’s crying and upset and repeatedly telling you to turn off the fucking thing is just plain rude and irritating. I have to admit that about halfway through the movie, I actually started rooting for the demon to win and fuck these guys up good. Hey, if you’re going to be this stupid and annoying, you don’t deserve to survive a horror film. Go demons!