UNKNOWN DIMENSION: THE STORY OF PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2021)
Documentary written and directed by Joe Bandelli starts us off with a brief history of found footage horrors from Cannibal Holocaust to The Mcpherson Tape, to The Blair Witch Project. We then meet Oren Peli who details how he got the idea for the first film, in this now classic franchise, from his own experiences hearing strange noises in his new home. He details the casting of Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, who then join the documentary to give anecdotes of their own, on filming the first Paranormal Activity on a shoestring budget and with what barely could be called a script. The film then takes us on the long road to its eventual theatrical release, with interviews from various producers and horror journalists, as the film becomes a box office smash, and a franchise is born. Bandelli then brings in a host of actors and filmmakers as he takes us on the journey of the making of the film’s sequels, leading up to the recent seventh film that was still filming when this documentary was completed.
Bandelli crafts a fun and informative look at the history of one of modern horror’s most famous and successful movie franchises from the perspective of those involved. The writer/director brings in a host of talent from behind and in front of the cameras, to give a detailed and entertaining look at how what was basically little more than a home movie, turned into a near billion-dollar movie franchise. If you are a fan of this series, it is fun to see the stars from the original film, and all the sequels, return these many years later to describe their time working on the flicks, and even some honest commentary from the people involved on what led the series into its decline in the later installments. If you are a fan of the Paranormal Activity films and are curious about how it all came together, this is definitely a recommended watch on Paramount+.
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Hell Fest is a slasher flick that finds pretty Natalie (Amy Forsyth) reluctantly going to a Halloween Haunt with her friends on All Hallow’s Eve. Hell Fest is almost a Renaissance faire for horror fans with costumed performers and dozens of mazes, fun houses and ghoulish games. What Natalie and company don’t know, is that a real serial killer (not listed in the cast 😱) has entered the park and she and her friends have gotten his attention in the worst way.
Flick is a routine but fun slasher, as directed by Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) from a script and story by six people, no less. It’s not especially scary, though there are a few effective moments, mostly in the last act. The body count is unusually low for a modern day slasher, but there is some good gore and Plotkin at least has a very cool stetting that he can take advantage of…though more could have been done with the concept. All the tropes are followed and handled well enough to entertain, though there is nothing inventive enough to really make an impression and the generic masked boogie man was serviceable at best. The cast of characters are all fairly stereotypical, though the attractive cast does make them likable enough for us not to be completely apathetic with their fates. Lead Amy Forsyth (Torment) is a decent final girl, though she didn’t leave a strong enough impression to make her Natalie overly memorable. If any of the cast members stood out, it was Bex Taylor-Klaus as the cute but obnoxious horror buff Taylor. The rest of the supporting cast make decent killer fodder and there is a brief appearance by genre legend Tony Todd as a Hell Fest carnival performer. The film ends a bit suddenly and the denouement is both interesting and anti-climactic at the same time. Only time and box office numbers will tell if the makers can expand on that ending, if there ever is a Hell Fest 2.
Overall, Hell Fest is an entertaining enough horror flick as long as you are not expecting anything groundbreaking or innovative. Plot-wise it was by-the-numbers slasher hi-jinx and it’s killer was effective just enough, but not so much to make one look forward to an ongoing franchise. There was some nice gore, the Hell Fest setting was fun and the young cast was likable enough, so we weren’t detached from the proceedings. The film is also helped by the fact that it was nice to have a horror movie out this Halloween season that didn’t involve found footage or increasingly ridiculous traps. Routine but fun and you could do a lot worse during the spooky season..
Rated 3 masked killers…generous, but hey…it’s Halloween 🎃
Halloween set horror from Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension director Gregory Plotkin finds a group of youths entering a carnival spook house and being stalked by a serial killer while inside. Hell Fest features horror icon Tony Todd and will see release on 9/28/18! Looks like it could be fun!
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I’ve enjoyed the Paranormal Activity series and while I admit it was starting to show definite signs of running out of gas with the much-maligned part 4, there did seem to be a bit of a second wind with the fun spin-off, The Marked Ones. Now we get Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, which is being sold as the series finale, but really doesn’t answer any more questions than the previous entries and doesn’t really make good on some of The Marked Ones‘ promise.
This entry takes place at Christmas time at the home of the Fleeges family. We have Ryan (Chris J. Murray), his pretty wife, Emily (Brit Shaw) and their adorable little girl Leila (Ivy George). They are joined by Ryan’s recently single brother Mike (Dan Gill) and pretty blonde “Auntie Skyler” (Olivia Taylor Dudley), whose actual relationship with the family is never really clear (Emily’s sister?) other than to provide exposition and look hot in Daisy Dukes. They discover a box with an old video camera and VHS tapes, in the house, which reveal young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristie (Jessica Tyler Brown) from Paranormal Activity 3. Upon watching these tapes, they observe some bizarre cult activity with the two girls and strange things begin to occur in their own home. The camera can apparently pick-up ‘spirit photography’ (as per our lovely Auntie Skyler) and Ryan begins to see strange things floating around the house. The activity seems to be focused on Leila and as the activity grows and Leila’s behavior begins to change, the Fleeges begin to fear there is something dark and dangerous in their home…and evidence indicates they have been targeted by something sinister. Somebody call an exorcist!
Series editor Gregory Plotkin directs from a story and script by no less than five people. While he actually doesn’t do a bad job for his first outing, the script doesn’t really give him that much new to work with till the last act, and while that adds a few new wrinkles, it doesn’t come close to providing a satisfying finale. Odd that five people working for two years couldn’t come up with anything more then basically just another installment. The spirit camera gimmick looses it’s novelty quickly and since our imaginations can concoct far worse than any FX technician, demon “Toby” is reduced to just another CGI phantom that has become all too common in this digital effects age. He’s not that impressive now that he’s been outed and we are no longer as afraid of him. At least in previous entries we never knew where he would strike from next. Here we can see him coming. Plotkin does give us some legitimate tension and chills, but the movie really doesn’t go too far from where any previous entry went and when we finally find out what the witch coven “The Mid-Wives” want, it’s basically nothing that the demon/exorcism movie of the week hasn’t done before. There is some cool stuff with the dimension portal introduced in Marked Onesand some fun use ofPA3footage, but the film seems to only casually address elements in the last two films with throwaway lines and even uses that same approach with a major character, leaving her fate a loose end. Even the climax leaves us at a point where there is obviously more to the story, so, as a finale, this feels far from final. The usual complaints are still here, too. Such as, why don’t they ever put the camera down, even when in danger and why don’t these people seem anything more than moderately curious when discovering there is a demonic entity stalking their child…and did no one think of Windex-ing the demonic symbols said child drew, off the wall? She’s continually allowed to sleep in a bed surrounded by writing that has been identified as demonic in nature. Bad parenting indeed! Suffice to say, characters do not behave logically or practically as the film progresses and we wonder if “The Mid-Wives” indeed made the right choice as this clan seems to be walking right into their sinister plot perfectly…and with predictable results.
The cast were fine and at least the characters where likable. Murray is fun as dad Ryan who is quite fascinated at first by the camera, tapes and odd goings on. The script doesn’t have him or anyone else as scared or concerned as they should be, but that’s not the actor’s fault. Gill is amusing as Ryan’s goofball brother and provides the comic relief, which is welcome at times. Ivy George is adorable as little Leila and escapes annoying child syndrome, so, we like and care about her. She does good work for a tyke. The Paranormal Activity series continues the tradition of hot mom’s and good-looking supporting characters with Brit Shaw’s pretty girl-next-door mom Emily, who seems a little more concerned about the lurking demon than her husband, and Olivia Taylor Dudley (also seen recently in The Vatican Tapes) whose character’s purpose may be questionable, but she’s hot, so we’ll tolerate it. We also get familiar faces such as Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown and Hallie Foote returning as young Katie, Kristie and Grandma Lois respectively. Notice anybody missing?…grrrr!*
Didn’t hate it, but it is a big disappointment for those looking for a solid finale and tied up loose ends. New director Gregory Plotkin doesn’t do a bad job but is working from a script compiled by five people and it does teeter on the edge of mess at times. The flick has a few new wrinkles that are amusing enough but falls back on familiar series tropes and makes a bit of a mistake in revealing its series villain as just another CGI spook, after five films left him to our own overactive imaginations. There are…as usual with this series…just as many loose ends as there are questions answered, leaving the door ajar in case this makes a boatload of cash and Toby returns once more.
*As a personal gripe, how can you end a series without its lead character (aside from Toby) is beyond me. Boo!
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) spooks…it earns a few ‘hottie in Daisy Dukes’ extra points.
The Latin themed Paranormal Activity spin off Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones gets a trailer. It does link to the original series and there are some crossover characters but, with the last installment showing signs of slowing down, do we need two Paranormal Activity movies in 2014? The Marked Ones opens 1/3/2014 while Paranormal Activity 5 will open in October.
After receiving news a while back that we would not be getting a Paranormal Activity movie this Halloween and the fifth installment had been postponed till October 2014, things have been pretty quiet. Sources said the producers had yet to find a story they liked and after what was considered a disappointing entry even by fans in last year’s Paranormal Activity 4 (Which I personally didn’t think was as bad as it’s made out to be), it looked liked they were going to take their time developing the next in the series. Now world comes that not only does PA5 have a writing team with series newcomers Jason Pagan and Andrew Stark, but, rumors have proven true and series editor and co-producer Gregory Plotkin is taking the helm as director. Usually we don’t get this kind of news till Spring with this series so, I hope it means they plan to take their time with this entry and give this series the second wind it needs and hopefully take it in some new directions. There are no details on the story but, that is no surprise as this series keeps things under wraps as long as they can. These films split horror fans right down the middle but, I find them harmless, spooky fun and they are a good time to watch with an audience. Till then we have the Latin centric spin off movie Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones to look forward to on January 3rd 2014.