[This is the last post I'll make about Paranormal Activity - promise!]
One of the common responses to complaints about the ending of Paranormal Activity - it even popped up in reaction to my first blog about the film - is that the ending is "effective". (I'd link to the response to the Youtube clip as evidence of this, but it appears the clip has been pulled.) I suppose that "effective" is being deployed in a very utilitarian sense, here - it's a scary movie and the ending is scary. Which has to be the most banal and meaningless use of "effective" that I can imagine.
It's also just plain wrong. The demon-face ending is not effective. I could see someone making the case that it's affective - it's definitely frightening, in the moment. But that moment of affect detracts from the effectiveness of the film as a whole, and it does this in two major ways.
First, it plays up a scare that violates the generic logic of an ostensibly 'realist' first-person POV horror-film, a genre replete with certain implicit rules and precedent - Blair Witch or REC - about how scares can and should be depicted. Explicit CGI alterations like the face or Micah's flying body fall well outside those boundaries.
Second, it violates its own internal logic. The epigraph thanking Micah and Katie's families establishes a certain boundary within which the ending must land - if we're to believe, even if only for the duration of the film, that this was made and legally distributed, then the film can't obviously end in a way that would logically lead to it becoming police evidence. Or in a way that would cause to wonder why Katie's family would ever agree to its release, much less Micah's. It doesn't make sense, and clearly one or the other - the epigraph or the ending - needed to go.
Sorry if I'm being repetitive. I must be feeling particularly whiny.