Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Since I heard that Paranormal Activity 3 was boffo at the box office, no doubt due in part to being released so close to Halloween, the first in that execrable triumvirate of social galas that also includes Thanksgiving and Xmas, I figured it was my duty to watch the first two to see what the brouhaha was all about.

I had avoided watching them up to this point because everything mentioned about the flicks somehow screamed ~waste of time~ to me. But I'm into watching a lot of movies these days and decided to give it a go.

This faux cinema verite style seems to be the shits these days, with it's jerky camera work and awkward extemporaneous improvisation. The first Paranormal actually worked pretty good with this although being redundantly damn hokey with the first thought for the principles being to grab the camera whenever weird crap happened. They got past this in the second one by having a security system of multiple recording devices installed, more on this shortly. Paranormal #1 broke ground by luring the viewer to pay attention to mundane shots of domestic nothingness in the hopes of seeing something otherwordly. Fake documentary style was used well to prepare the viewer for the gotcha moments, and it's not a bad way to invest a little time at the movies.

At this point I've got to interject that these people in both flicks are mentioned as middle class families beset by supernatural forces, but for Jeebus' sake they're anything but middle class, unless I'm so freaking poor that anything seems opulent to me at this juncture. Nobody seems to work, everybody has a swimming pool and the family in the second iteration actually employs a maid. Now I understand the project was to show families terrorized by creepy horror. Probably the stories of Norman Rockwell happy comfort beset by out of control weirdness hits a special nerve these days. But apparently rich southern Cal lifestyles were all the producers could dream up to tell their tales.

#2 in the series suffered the fate of sequels everywhere. Probably the popularity of the original took everyone by surprise so of course the effort was undertaken to capitalize on what worked. Unfortunately what worked in the original - those snippets of oddball spookiness that you eagerly awaited sprinkled into lengths of monitoring tape - became endless footage of nothing at all. Rather than one hand held camera, you had a half dozen security cameras showing absolutely nothing, and the interest you had in the first movie to catch the abnormalities got warped into an interminable, boring game of Where's Waldo. Sequels are too predictably failure prone in this manner when something that succeeds is beaten to death in subsequent efforts. It looks like #3 is going to go the same route; video cameras running all night producing a yawn inspiring who-the-hell-cares reaction. As Ebert labels it, "Tedious Activities".
A great way to cap off the most insipid run of summer garbage in living memory.


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