So, I finally got round to watching Paranormal Activity today (I haven’t done the whole Murdoch media empire thing since the Wapping dispute all those years ago). I had to watch it in full daylight, with the curtains open, and I still found it terrifying, even as I was laughing at its gleeful torture of its audience (not to mention its characters). Actually, my over-riding impression of it afterwards (and I realise that this is probably a way off-centre reading of it*) is that it’s a very heartening film. Do you too have a boyfriend who won’t respect your boundaries or take you at your word and wants to film you in the bedroom all the time? A demon in the home could be just the ticket….
Anyway, I was really struck by all the invitations (camera, ouija board, microphone, threats, taunts…) that said boyfriend keeps extending to the entity. That reminded me of the rule that no vampire film I’ve ever seen contradicts: A vampire cannot enter your home unless you invite her/him in. Why is it that so much of the horror genre is obsessed with invasion of the home or body (and provides such rich pickings for psychology)? Why is it that boundaries and thresholds and invitations to cross them are so potent? Why do humans have so many threshold gods? (Sorry, Wikipedia, liminal deities).
‘We are physical beings, bounded and set off from the rest of the world by the surface of our skins, and we experience the rest of the world as outside us. Each of us is a container, with a bounding surface and an in-out orientation.’
Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, Metaphors We Live By, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, p.29.
Does it all come back, plain and simple, to the fact that we humans are made of meat?
*I know, I know. The film is still utilising that tired old trope of the permeable, corruptable (corrupted?) female (I refer you to Marina Warner’s writings about leaky sieves in Monuments and Maidens).