Paranormal Activity

I saw Paranormal Activity last Friday night.  I hadn’t heard of it until my brother-in-law and sister-in-law started talking about it and suggested we go see it.  I’m always up for a scary movie, so off we went.  If you haven’t heard of it, either, the website provides this summary: “After a young, middle class couple moves into what seems like a typical suburban “starter” tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night.  Especially when they sleep. Or try to.”

Like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity is shot with a hand-held camera, except for the overnight scenes when the camera is placed on a tripod.  These lock-down shots work well in contrast with the shaky hand-held scenes of the rest of the movie.  While I didn’t suffer from sleeplessness after seeing this movie, it was pretty scary.  Well not scary so much as creepy.  Unsettling.

Then yesterday, I heard a story on NPR about it, focusing on why films that rely on the hand-held style have been successful.  Here’s what they say:

“I do think there’s something horribly creepy about the shaky hand-held camera,” says Judith Halberstam, who literally wrote the book about horror and technology. “It comes so close.”

That shakiness pulls you right into the film. Think of the sequence in The Silence of the Lambs where the killer uses night-vision goggles to stalk Jodie Foster’s heroine in a basement. Or the movie Cloverfield, in which a guy at a party videotapes a giant mutant monster. The idea, it seems, is that the fourth wall has somehow sprung a leak.

“If the person shooting the film is about to get it, what about the person watching the film?” Halberstam asks.

I like the idea that “the fourth wall has somehow sprung a leak.”  The audience becomes a participant in the action in a way and more easily relates to the characters, since the camera’s point-of-view is the character’s point-of-view.  Suddenly we feel like what’s happening on screen is happening to us, too.  Scary!

But this technique – breaking down the fourth wall – isn’t limited to horror movies.  It can happen when the people onscreen are unscripted, too.  Whenever the audience feels that they’re watching something that isn’t staged, the fourth wall disappears.  That’s part of the reason reality tv shows are so popular – we can easily imagine ourselves in the contestants’ place.  It’s even more effective when the unscripted video isn’t edited.  We believe in it more when there aren’t any cuts.

All this got me thinking about businesses and how they can create a similar no-fourth-wall feeling with their clients.  Does your business relate to customers in a way that creates that same perception?  Do your clients feel like they’re being met on a human level?  Do they feel part of the action?  You can foster this feeling on your website.  There are a lot of methods to do it.  Adding video is one way, and Tweedee Productions can help.

Looking over my shoulder in fear.

Looking over my shoulder in fear.

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