Sunday, November 1, 2009

Things That Could've Gone Bump In The Night.

As I’m sure most of you are aware there’s a little flick called PARNORMAL ACTIVITY that’s making a pretty big splash in the world of cinema at the moment. I just got back from seeing said flick and I feel it’s my duty to report on this little mini-phenomenon that’s tearing through the multiplexes. The less you know about this movie going in the better so I’m going to do everything I can to keep this short and sweet. As such if you choose to not read any further my feelings won’t be hurt in the least. In short know that I think Oren Peli has made a very well done independent film that is ultimately hamstrung by the way the studio is handling it’s release. So there, if that’s all you want to know, take that knowledge, don’t read anything else and be gone with you.

For those of you still with me, first and foremost I would like to state that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is a very well done, independent creepfest. My hat is off to Oren Peli because with almost no money and resources he has made a genuine horror movie, one that is refreshing in the fact that it relies on actual scares not gore and guts to the get the audience’s pulse pounding.
While no one would accuse the characters in this film of being very deep you grow to like them pretty fast just because they seem like normal, every day people. There’s nothing spectacular about them other than the weirdness that seems to have followed Katie (Played VERY well by Katie Featherston) most of her life. The movie is incredibly good at the slow burn. At first everything that happens seems innocuous and fairly harmless but as the film progresses you begin to grow just as uneasy as the characters do. While I’ll admit I’m not the kind of audience that a horror film plays to everyone else in the theatre kept getting more and more panicky the further the movie went along. It finally got to the point towards the end of the movie that every time the “night time” footage would start you could sense the audience holding its breath. For the most part the movie had almost everyone in the theatre eating out of the palm of its hand. At the same time I spent the majority of the movie kicking myself for not having come up with such a simple, but effective idea first.

None of the above is meant as a backhanded complement in any way shape or form. A very good, creepy, independent horror film was made. Everything about it is effective and well done. Having said that though, this is no THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Of course, that’s not the really the movies fault. No I think the fault for this film not being nearly as effective as it could be falls squarely on Paramount’s shoulders.

Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love Paramount Pictures. Pound for pound I think they and Warner Brothers are hands down the two best movie studios in the world at the moment. They take chances, and display gigantic cajones when almost every other studio seems to be running away from anything that could be perceived as original or groundbreaking. No, I think what we have here is indicative not so much of Paramount but Hollywood as a whole at the moment.

You see IF Paramount Vantage (Paramount Picture’s independent film arm) still existed this film would have been released like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. It would have been slow, it would have been subtle, it would have been quiet and best of all it would have been handled in a way to make everyone think that what you were seeing on that screen, for those 90 minutes was one hundred percent real!

Do you remember when THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT first came out? It was 10 years ago so I know it may be a little hard but just try to recall back that far if you can. For the first month or so, if not longer, as the movie slowly rolled out everyone thought it was real. The whole way Lion’s Gate handled it made it sound like it was an actual news story and that this “found footage” was part of it. As such even once the word started to spread that it was all just an ingenious independent film no matter how hard you tried, every so often you couldn’t help but wonder if what you were watching was real. This simple marketing strategy caused THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT to be one of the single scariest phenomenons of my life time.

The same exact thing was needed for PARANORMAL ACTIVITY but sadly it just didn’t get it. Sure Paramount did this whole thing where your city had to demand to see it and so on but never once did they try to convince anyone that it wasn’t a movie. As such the moment you walk in the theatre, unlike THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT you know everything you are watching is completely fake, sure it’s a well done fake but it’s still fake and as such it has almost no power. Part of the reason the movie got as far as it did in festivals and made it into the hands of guys like Steven Spielberg is because the film maker wanted everyone to believe it was real. He did a pretty good job of it too but I’m afraid most of those efforts have been ruined by the studio.

Sadly PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is a victim of a Hollywood system that is quickly losing touch with the world of independent cinema. It is a system that no longer knows how to find, acquire or handle anything made outside of its big budget hierarchy. This system has forced many of the independent branches of studios -those entities that were created specifically to handle movies like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – to shut down and great opportunities for great independent cinema are getting lost in the shuffle.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY isn’t Shakespeare and it was never going to be the kind of thing that would win all sort of awards but it’s a fun, quite effective little horror film that would’ve been so much more effective had it been handled like anything other than a big studio release. It’s making money and I’m sure it will continue to make money. Hopefully great things lie ahead for all involved but Paramount had the chance to truly scare the living crap out a lot of people and they dropped the ball. That seems to be par for the course in today’s world of independent cinema.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another one I'll report on in depth after I see it but I hear its not worth seeing unless you do with an audience.