Sunday, November 4, 2012

Paranormal Activity 3 and 4

Last year I watched "Paranormal Activity 1" and "2" back to back for my Halloween post, and this year, it only seemed right to do the same thing.  Hopefully this means that I have reviewed every Paranormal Activity movie that will ever exist, because having seen all four of these things, I really hope that they stop making them.  It seems that now that the Saw series collapsed in spectacular fashion after the disaster that was "Saw 3D", Paranormal Activity has taken Saw's position as the yearly Halloween franchise.  And trust me, just like the Saw movies, Paranormal Activity is clearly running out of steam with the fourth installment.  And that's saying something for a film series that really never had much coal in the boiler in the first place.

Just to make sure that I wasn't totally insane in my distaste for the Paranormal Activity movies, I made sure to watch these movies in a very different environment than the one I used last year.  Last year I was over a friend's house mocking it with a group of friends, and only a few of us were actually scared - they were girls.  This year I watched in all alone in an empty room in the dark, and I was even less scared.  I actually did turn the lights on, but only to get enough light so I could work on a few Sudoku puzzles in a book of them I found for entertainment while Hurricane Sandy had knocked out my power.  And its actually Hurricane Sandy's fault that I'm reviewing these movies at all - if there had been power and local theaters were working this week, I might be here reviewing "Wreck-It Ralph" or "The Man With the Iron Fists" or "Cloud Atlas".  Instead I'm reviewing this.  And only just to fill up space on the blog, because I love you people, and I miss you all.

Now, I am coming on harsh with the Paranormal Activity movies, and that's only because I just watched the fourth one.  "Paranormal Activity 4" may be the worst one in the entire series, its easily the stupidest by far, and definitely the most infuriating.  However, I also watched "Paranormal Activity 3", which was actually a surprise since it only 50% sucked.  Stuff happened in that movie, it ended on a scary note.  If you have to watch any of these movies, watch "3".  Don't watch "4" and if anybody offers to take you to see "4" in the theaters, kick them squarely in the balls.  And if they're a girl, go, because you never know what might lead to what.  You know, keep those options open.  But anyway, Paramount, please STOP.  Stop making these movies.

I'll start with "Paranormal Activity 3" since that one actually isn't so terrible compared to the others.  The first "Paranormal Activity" was all a slow build-up to the single final jump scare.  And even though it didn't work for me, I kinda respect the idea of a horror movie centered around a single final explosive event.  Unfortunately, this meant that the movie ultimately wasn't very scary because every scene you never knew if anything was going to happen or not.  You just watched the screen for minutes on end waiting for things to occur... and they almost never do.  The second movie actually managed to have more stuff happening, and had a very explosive climax in the basement.  However, 90% of the movie is just empty space of nothing happening.  So neither of them are very good.  "3" however, is off the rails, the ending is excellent, its like watching a real horror movie for about twenty minutes.

This is mostly because by the time of "Paranormal Activity 3", the filmmakers just completely gave up the pretense that any of this crap is real.  I think the first two movies had to limit themselves to mild scares and stuff you can barely see in order to keep up the air that this might actually be real footage.  Which means that the movie is lame.  I don't think that "3" even bothered with title cards and a backstory that some documentary filmmaker created this footage.  The "is it real or not?" business in found footage movies always annoyed me.  Because its a movie.  ITS FAKE.  Its always been fake!  We don't need to limit ourselves to this goofy conceit that this takes place in the real world.  Go all out!

"Paranormal Activity 3" supposedly is VHS tapes from 1988 that's the childhood tapes of the two sisters from the first movies.  Of course, nothing about this footage looks at all like its shot on video, as a matter of fact, its clearly professional grade modern cameras.  The mother kinda has an 80s haircut, but not really.  They really wasted the possibilities of this being 80s-like.  I mean, you probably have old VHS tapes in your basement somewhere of yourself or parents from decades ago, you've watched this stuff.  You know what it looks like and that people dress strange and that the audio is weird and stuff.  They don't even try.  Nobody watches TV because they didn't want to get the rights for the opening credits of "Cheers" or anything.  The kids do not have single brand name, no My Little Pony, no nothing.  Its lame.  And I don't buy for a second that this home footage.

Anyway, the ghost from the first two movies is back, and he's now acting like the imaginary friend of Katie, the girl who gets possessed.  The dad works as a guy who films weddings, so when he starts noticing weird stuff, he decides to start filming the house.  Yeah, this makes no sense, whatever, we'll move on.  Later on the dad invents this very stupid panning camera trick, where he basically glues the camera to an oscillating fan so he can film his entire first floor.  This is an incredibly stupid trick that basically forces us to go on a dumb ride back and forth, back and forth, over and over again while you're wondering if the camera will pan to like a vampire or something.  It never does.  Half the movie is pointless empty filler of empty rooms with nothing happening, or a little girl talking to the Ghost.  Its not scary, nothing happens.  Its boring.  Its filler.

However, and this is where my review turns, the last half hour of the movie is actually really good.  Because up until this point, all Paranormal Activity has been is dead scenes of growing tension.  You're supposed to sit around waiting for the thing to go "BOO!" so you can scream yourself silly.  This is boring, I'm sorry.  People who get off on this kind of thing are easily amused.  I can go on haunted hay rides or go to haunted houses and walk around really tense knowing that eventually a dude in a werewolf mask will shake the car and yell at me.  I don't care about that, its not what I want in my movie.  I want things to occur, not endless stillness.

So when the last half hour of "Paranormal Activity 3" actually does have things occurring, really crazy shit, I'm down for it.  The ghost picks one girl up by her hair, two characters get trapped in the bathroom while the ghost is ripping the house up, and then there's the trip to Grandma's House.  Yeah, they actually leave the one house - which is the hugest jump in movement and action that these movies have ever had.  Every other movie feels like it was filmed in a week at the producer's house, this one at least was filmed at two producers' houses.  Grandma's House is truly insane, when the movie amps the tension to true horror status.  People get murdered, there are freaky old people in the garage, and the ghost fucking snaps a dude in half.  I'm down for it.  Do more of that.  If you must watch a Paranormal Activity movie - I don't know why you'd have to - but if you must, watch "Paranorman Activity 3".

So you'd think with the rising craziness of the movies, "Paranormal Activity 4" would eventually reach a point where it would be like an actual horror movie.  You know, with scares littered throughout the entire movie and a feeling of dread and tension that requires more than just stupid jump attacks to sell your movie.  Well, they didn't.  "Paranormal Activity 4" may not be the least watchable of this series, but its definitely the laziest and by far the stupidest.

Okay, we're back to the 21st century and this time instead of cameras we're using Skype.  And Kinect.  Because Skype is a modern thing and... I guess Microsoft paid them a few million to advertise the Kinect in this movie.  Unfortunately this creates the side-effect of "Paranormal Activity 4" being dumber than the other movies, because at least in those ones people were holding cameras.  I mean, it made no sense for people to continue filming while they're getting eaten by the ghost*, but that's a problem with every friggin' found footage movie.  But I can see keeping a camera on your face while being chased by the Cloverfield monster, but holding a heavy laptop in front of your face, that's another matter.  That takes both hands, that's breaking my already stretched suspension of disbelief.

The plot this time is that there's this completely new family with a teenage girl and a little boy, who are living peacefully until they take in the creepy little kid from next door.  This little kid is basically every creepy little kid from every horror movie ever, though don't expect anything "Good Son"-levels from him**.  So the teenage daughter (who I will try my best to avoid making jailbait jokes about) has this really creepy boyfriend who apparently films her while sleeping.  That's a point that never gets addressed, by the way, but I have to move on.  So the creepy boyfriend, while filming his girlfriend asleep, notices that the new little kid sneaks up to the girl's room.  Once again we start filming everything in everybody's life in order to catch weird stuff happening.

This time, I am 100% that nobody is actually watching the footage being shown.  There are repeated instances of direct, obvious supernatural stuff occurring, and nobody is watching.  One scene has one of the little boys (I wasn't paying attention enough to care which one was which) is riding around on his little tricycle around the house alone***, and then a chair gets pushed in front of him by the ghost.  The kid just sits there for a moment and ignores it.  Nobody notices this.  All the other creepy stuff just gets flat-out ignored, no action is ever taken, and the parents are so stupid that they never watch any of the footage.  If somebody was watching the footage, they probably would have noticed that the house was haunted.  Or noticed that the new kid was taking to Satan at night.  This is just intolerably stupid at this point.

Let go back to the parents, because they are amazing in this film.  Its established that they're like divorcing or something, but they are unbelievably dumb.  I like to imagine that they're smoking pot in their room every time we don't seem them.  The teenage daughter a million times finds creepy footage and tries to show her parents, but they never listen.  Over and over again they are utterly oblivious and unable to understand anything.  As a matter of fact, the plot to this movie really is almost exactly like that of a "Goosebumps" book.  You got the idiot parents, the kids starring, the cliched monster, the endless endless fake-out scares.  However, if this were Goosebumps it would at least have an awesomely ridiculous and totally nonsensical twist ending at the end.  At the end they all turn out to be robots built by the dad and its all a test for his new Paranormal Activity theme park or something.  R.L. Stein, please come back, because as childish as you were, you are John Carpenter compared to the clowns making these movies.

By the way, if you thought the jump scares were annoying before, they have reached a new low.  There are so many jump scares, and they all suck.  You got cats jumping at the camera, people jumping at the camera, random things flying in front of the camera.  At one point, and I wish I was joking, the main girl teleports across the room in a bizarre edit just to startle morons.  People say this over and over again, but I'll say it again:  its not scary, its startling.  I'm not scared, I'm stressed, because this movie is abusive.  Yeah, my adrenalin is up (only sometimes since I kept predicting every move), but I don't like the characters, they're idiots, I'm not frightened by the ghost, you can never see him!  By the end Katie from the first movie appears and goes Michael Myers on everybody, and that was satisfying.  I love slashers, kill more people in these movies!  I applauded when the dumb boyfriend got his head twisted around.  Because up until then, nothing had happened.  So watching people die, especially when they were all hateful idiots, was satisfying.  Because it also meant the movie was about to end.

Truth me, it isn't just the parents who are stupid.  In one scene the girl gets trapped in the garage while the ghost tries to murder her by turning on the car and asphyxiating her with fumes.  First of all, why would the ghost try to kill her this way when he could just rip her to shreds?  Second of all, why is the girl still filming this crap while she's getting slowly murdered?  And finally, why doesn't she call her boyfriend with Skype or facebook chat or friends to get somebody to SAVE HER?  This is so stupid.  Dumb.  Dumb.  Dumb.  Dumb.  Seriously, only White People could ever be this dumb.  "Paranormal Activity 5" need L.L. Cool J. as a jive-talkin' comic relief who is too intelligent to get murdered****.

A lot of people are complaining about how this movie ruined the running Paranormal Activity plot but I can't for the life of me say that I care.  I never cared about the plot, I haven't even tried to follow what was going on.  There are probably plotholes everywhere, probably to "Saw VII"-levels, I don't care.  Because I don't care about anything.  The Sudoku puzzles I was writing is more important.

One more thing:  the editing.  Who is editing this movie?  I'm talking both to the editor in the real world and the editor in the film's reality.  The edits make no sense.  They edit out of conversations, one edit makes the girl teleport across the room, there are endless scenes of nothing happening for no reason other than to get your tension raised.  Let's say you are an editor who found this footage, why would you keep that in?  If you edited it just to show the interesting stuff, then you would show the interesting stuff, not the empty scenes of nothing.  Its edited like a crappy horror movie, other found footage movies don't have this problem*****, because everything you see is what was filmed.  In this movie, there's a scene where the girl floats above her bed and we cut away to nothing.  So you don't see the rest of it.  The little kid gets nearly drowned in his tub, and we cut away from a few minutes.  Why exactly?

There is one saving grace for "Paranormal Activity 4":  I didn't spend ten bucks for this movie.  I got it bootleg.  And since this is found footage, it doesn't matter how bad the quality is, it only adds to the effect.  Speaking of which, I want "Paranormal Activity 5" to star a bootleg camera guy in a theater illegally recording "Paranormal Activity 4".  The first ten minutes will feature the camera guy bitching about how bad this movie was.

Seriously, "Paranormal Activity 4" may be the worst movie of the year.  It is so bad that even Paranormal Activity fans hated it.  As soon as find one that I kinda liked, I immediately watched one that sucks more than any of the others.  Remember when they used to make good****** horror******* movies********?

* They should really make a found-footage movie from the perspective of the killer, not the victim.  It would be like "Peeping Tom", a classic 1960 slasher movie that stars a serial killer who gets off by murdering women while filming them.  At least that way the cameraman has a motivation to continue filming.  You know.  Think about it, Hollywood.

** "The Good Son" is a great movie, even though I can't say its particularly well-written.  It stars psychopathic Macaulay Culkin.  And trust me, after watching that, you'll never watch another Macaulay Culkin movie the same way, because that kid is sinister.  He is a demon.  Watch that movie instead of this.  (Let's see how many more recommendations I can make in the footnotes.)

*** Which is a reference to "The Shining", and seriously, Paranormal Activity, do not DARE compare yourself to "The Shining".  "The Shining" is perhaps the greatest movie ever made, easily the best horror movie.  Watch that, seriously.  Stop whatever you're doing, watch that.

**** "Deep Blue Sea" is exactly what you need if you want L.L. Cool J. in your monster movie.  And he is indeed too Black and too awesome to get eaten by the sharks.  However, Samuel L. Jackson is not so lucky.

***** If you want a good found-footage movie from 2012, watch "Chronicle".

****** "Motel Hell" is a pretty great and silly cannibal horror movie from 1980.  This features people getting captured off the road, planted in the ground, and then turned into jerky.  Plus plenty of tits.

******* "The People Under the Stairs" is probably Wes Craven's most insane movie.  Its basically the horror movie version of "Home Alone".  It stars this little Black boy in the projects who goes to investigate his landlords, who turn out to be incestuous serial killers who keep zombies in their basement and have the entire place boobietrapped.  It has this utterly ludicrous premise and is just endlessly silly, but has this great fairy tale vibe.  Its the perfect movie for 2:00 AM.

******** "House" is the greatest Japanese movie ever made.  It stars seven teenage girls who visit a haunted house, and it is one of the most beautiful, silly, and interesting movies I've seen.  Its an experimental film, but not in a stupid artsy way, the director uses all kinds of different techniques to give this utterly mad sense.  Its cartoony, its ridiculous, and its endless fun.  "House" is just incredible.  "House" makes you feel better that you wasted an evening reviewing a terrible horror movie, because just thinking about it makes me so happy.  It is perfect.

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen "The Woman in Black"? Now that is a good horror movie. It manages to strike the ideal balance between tense atmosphere-building and scaring you shitless. I had trouble sleeping for two days after watching it.