There’s no doubt in my mind that the title of this post is true. Sure, the Harry Potter books get more angst-ridden as the kids get older, and sure, the stakes get higher when Voldemort is trying to take over the world and generally deploy his Evil Schemes. But you can keep your graveyard incantations and Departments of Mysteries, your snakes and corpses and lakes full of zombies. Harry Potter is never as scary before Prisoner of Azkaban, and it never gets quite that scary again.
Because the scare quotient (if I can use that phrase) of Prisoner of Azkaban doesn’t depend on gross images or Gothic idioms, it doesn’t depend on dark magic or evil ideologies. The story does more than just startle or alarm us. It unsettles. It gnaws away at us with a, creeping, oozing fear that pricks under your fingernails and round your eye sockets. And it’s the only book with scary not just as decoration or set design; the fear is embedded in the story itself.
Like a lot of the general movie-going public, Jamie and I plunked down some change to check out Paranormal Activity Friday night. First, my quick review: very, very good. The story is simple, and the audience is really supposed to focus on the characters as they sink ever deeper into their fear over what is in their home. The film’s style is much like that of The Blair Witch Project from ten years ago. But, I didn’t find that movie at all engaging, much less frightening. Part of the issue for me was the migraine I left the theater with after enduring nearly an hour and a half of people who couldn’t hold a camera steady. Paranormal Activity solves both of those problems. In short, if you enjoy thrills and confronting your own fears, you need to go see this film.
Movies don’t frighten me very often. In fact, I’ve tried to remember the last film that really unnerved me when I saw it in the theater, but I came up empty.** Paranormal Activity actually left me rather shaken. It is frightening in a way I have never experienced with a film. Continue reading