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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: Found Footage, Post 9/11

By Stanley Wright   March 15, 2024 

In the wake of the tragic events of 9/11, the world underwent a profound transformation, marked by heightened security concerns and a collective fear of the unknown. This societal shift  extended beyond airport security and government surveillance, permeating everyday life. One notable manifestation of this change was the proliferation of surveillance cameras, invading public spaces and, perhaps more insidiously, encroaching upon the personal realms of 
individuals. This essay explores how the omnipresence of cameras became a symbol of both security and intrusion, leaving an indelible mark on the post-9/11 landscape.

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Many horror films before 9/11 focused on external threats—monsters, aliens, or supernatural forces that invaded 
from outside the domestic sphere. The horror genre increasingly turned inward, exploring threats within domestic space. Films like Paranormal Activity (2007) and The Strangers (2008) emphasized the vulnerability of the home, reflecting anxieties about safety and security in one's immediate surroundings.


I vividly recall the night I ventured into a crowded theater to watch Paranormal Activity with friends. The atmosphere buzzed with anticipation, and as the lights dimmed, the sense of communal excitement was palpable. However, as supernatural events unfolded on the screen, an eerie tension settled in the air. The packed theater became a collective nervous breath-holder, and in a moment of overwhelming fear, I found myself confessing to a friend that I needed to leave.

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Paranormal Activity directed and written by Oren Pelli follows a couple, Micah, (Micah Sloat) and Katie, (Katie Featherson) as they document unsettling supernatural occurrences in their home using surveillance cameras, only to discover that the malevolent forces they capture on film are more insidious and personal than they could have ever imagined. The found footage movie unfolds in the domestic space, responding to the post-9/11 anxieties permeating the societal landscape. Set in a home equipped with security cameras, the film introduces a sense of security through modern surveillance technology.

However, the very foundation of safety is shattered as the supernatural forces invade the seemingly protected space. The home becomes a symbol of vulnerability, challenging the notion that technological advancements can shield individuals from unseen threats. Paranormal Activity taps into the fear that even within the confines of one's residence, security is not guaranteed.
The film's portrayal of Micah's constant filming mirrors the broader surveillance culture that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11. Security cameras became more prevalent in public spaces, and there was a trade-off between increased security and a loss of privacy. Micah's insistence on capturing every moment on camera reflects this cultural shift, where the desire for security often at the expense of personal privacy. Micah's obsession with cameras also introduces a thematic conflict between personal freedom and security. In the post-9/11 world, there were debates about how much personal freedom individuals should be willing to sacrifice for the sake of national security. Micah's decision to film everything, even against Katie's objections, reflects a tension between the desire for personal freedom and the perceived need for extreme security 
measures.

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Paranormal Activity serves as more than a horror film; it is a cultural artifact that encapsulates the anxieties of the post-9/11 era. From the packed theaters to the collective gasps, the film became a shared experience, tapping into the broader fears that permeated society. As I left the theater that night, shaken by the supernatural shadows on the screen, I realized that the film had not only frightened me but had provided a cathartic release for the anxieties lingering from the post-9/11 landscape. In this exploration of fear, Paranormal Activity emerges as a testament to the power of cinema to reflect, confront, and ultimately exorcise the societal demons that haunt our collective consciousness.

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Stan, a native of Union, South Carolina, found inspiration for his passion for horror in the
haunting image of an abandoned house consumed by kudzu that lingered in his memories. These
days, Stan likes to watch horror movies as well as dabble in screenwriting and writing about
horror.

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