Saturday, February 11, 2012

The "Paranormal Activity" Film Series...

Cold spots.  Disembodied voices.  Bone chilling winds or breezes.  Mysterious raps or knocks.  There are a number of occurrences that can be described as paranormal.  After the application of scientific study has been performed, and no rational explanation for the occurrence can be found, that is.  It's fascinating stuff, the subject of hauntings.

The world of the paranormal has gained intense popularity over the past several years.  What with shows like "In Search Of" and "Sightings", the subject of the paranormal has always been out there in the entertainment scape.  These days it's the era of the ghost hunter.

There have also been a fair share of films dealing with the subject of hauntings over the years, many of them holding high spots on my list of favorite movies.  "The House On Haunted Hill", "The Haunting" (original), "The Changeling", "The Haunting of Hell House", and in more recent years "The Others", and "Darkness".  There has always been a place in the world of film horror for ghosts.

In the last few years, that place has been firmly held in place by a film series that has been said to be the scariest thing going.  The "Paranormal Activity" movie series, of which there are three now.  Their budgets are obviously low as the villain is of an invisible kind, and none of the actors have ever been seen in anything else (not by my eyes, anyway).

(Katie Featherston, and
Micah Sloat)
The first film was released in 2007, with ads that showed members of an actual movie theater screening.  There is lots of cringing and screaming in the darkened theater.  Not a lot (if any) of actual film footage is shown.  A good ad ploy to attract audiences.  The premise?  Katie (played by Katie Featherston) and her boyfriend, Micah (Micah Sloat), move into a house together.  Strange things start to happen (surprise, surprise). TVs snapping on by themselves, ceiling lamps swaying, thumping sounds as if someone (or something) is clomping up the stairs or down the hall.  Easily achieved spook effects.  We learn that Katie and her sister had some experiences when they were young involving a demon of sorts.  She is upset that strange things are starting to happen again, as 'he' has found her again. Micah is thrilled about it, doing a number of stupid things to catch some actual proof of the 'beings' presence. The movie ends with Katie (now possessed by the demon), killing Micah.

The second film (2010) is about Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden), Katie's sister. Kristi, her husband, teenage daughter, baby, and dog, are those victimised in this installment.  Strange things begin to happen in her house, and the baby appears to be the main target.  Katie does make a few appearances (it appears to be happening in tandem with the first film), the subject of the goings on in their youth getting touched on.  It is learned that there is some sort of pact that the first born child of either of them belonged to the demon.  (There is one rather effective sequence involving the missing baby.)  After things really start to kick into high gear, Kristi decides to try and get rid of the demon and protect her family.  They perform some cleansing ritual, and it appears to do the trick.  That is until the possessed Katie shows up at her house and kills them all.

Now for the third installment that came out last year (2011).  This one takes us back to the 80's when Katie and Kristi were young.  Back to the experiences they had.  Julie (Lauren Bittner), the girls mother, and Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), a man that seems to be living with them as a boarder and a sort of boyfriend to Julie, are the adults of the house.  Young Katie (Chloe Csengery), and Young Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) are typical sisters.  Kristi, the younger of the two, is a bit shier.  Her mother doesn't think it odd at all when Kristi starts talking about her imaginary friend 'Toby'.  Odd things begin to happen.  Dennis, who video tapes weddings and such for a living, is completely intrigued by them.  He sets up video cameras all around the house to try and capture something.  At one point, a young guy who works with Dennis, Randy (Dustin Ingram), mentions the slumber party game "Bloody Mary".  One night Kristi isn't feeling well.  Julie and Dennis rush her off to the doctor, leaving Katie and Randy at the house.  Katie talks Randy into playing Bloody Mary in the girls' bathroom.  Randy gets scratched or bitten or...something (we never really see the mark), and when he tries to open the door stuff flies around the room.  It's a jump in your seat moment.  A small one (and one of the few).  There is a pretty big event that happens that causes Julie to finally believe.  They all pack off to her mothers' house.  We learn that Julie's mother is really part of a witches coven, and she and her fellow witches put Toby in the house.  Julie and Dennis are killed, and the girls are seemingly pulled into the care of their grandmother.

Are the girls raised as witches?  We won't know. Well...not until "Paranormal Activity 4" comes out.  Yep.  It's either in developmental or pre-production stages. The plot hasn't been released, and the only cast member announced is Katie Featherston.  The release date given is 2012, idea what's going on with it.

This post was going to be a review of "PA 3", but the review for 3 is pretty much the same as the review I would give for 1 and 2.  There are some effective moments.  Creepy moments.  But they are few and far between. Suspense can be a powerful tool when creating a spooky movie.  Here the space of time between events is painfully plodding.  The style of the film is from the perspective of the video camera and the one holding it.  We as movie viewers are "seeing the taped footage".  There are chunks of the film where there is entirely too much "tape" where nothing is going on.  Some uneventful footage leading up to an event is useful and effective.  Here it had me looking at the clock.  All 3 need some serious editing.  If there weren't so much filler, they all would be 100% better.  Of course, that would make them all about a half an hour long...

I am not easily scared.  That probably works against the effectiveness of the series for me.  If you scare easily...I mean VERY easily...then you might get a charge out of them.  Are they recommendable...hmm...if you have nothing better to do.  Maybe.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know these films but I enjoyed reading your take on them. Here in the UK a movie version of Susan Hill's very creepy book - which became a successful play - has just come out and looks a bit special.