‘Paranormal Activity’: This Decade’s ‘Blair Witch’

paranormal3Paranormal Activity, the Little Horror Movie That Could, continues its subtle domination of the world, one theater at a time. After a few weeks of enticing horror fans to “Demand” screenings of the flick in their neck of the woods, word now comes that if 1 million people do so, Paramount will open the movie wide across the country. What that actually means is open to interpretation right now, but still, an extremely clever gambit this.

This year being the 10th anniversary of the release of The Blair Witch Project, the temptation to compare the two films is overwhelming, especially considering the expert use of viral marketing. However, there’s more to it than that.

When you look at the ebb and flow of horror movies in the last 15 years (feel free to do so by picking up a copy of The New Horror Handbook), Paranormal Activity has more in common with Blair Witch than a great marketing campaign. Both movies hit theaters at a time when theatrical horror releases had descended into flaccid, formulaic tripe.

In 1999, the competition was The Mummy, Stigmata, Sleepy Hollow, and a few other equally predictable works. This year, it’s H2, Final Destination 4, Jennifer’s Body and Saw 6. With the exception of Diablo Cody’s entry, it’s all been there/done that.

Will we still be talking about Paranormal Activity 10 years from now? I’m guessing that we will. It’s not often that you get a genuinely scary movie in cinemas. Hopefully we will all get the chance to see this one amidst the shrieks and jumps of other horror fans.

Addendum: After an amazing, viral PR push, Paranormal Activity is now opening across the country on 10/16/09. Click here to find a theater near you.

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