THE FOUND FOOTAGE PHENOMENON (2021)
Margot (Emily Bader) is a young filmmaker who was abandoned at birth, but now has found some blood relatives. They are Amish and Margot decides to document reuniting with her family and travels to Amish country with her two friends/crew Chris and Dale (Roland Buck III and Dan LIppert). When she gets to the community village, she finds there is something strange going on, both in the farmhouse and concerning her long lost mother. The longer they stay, the more escalated the strange activity gets and the more Margot starts to feel something sinister is happening there.
Madison Iseman’s babysitter Mary Ellen finds paranormal peril when babysitting for Ed and Lorraine Warren in Annabelle Comes Home.
As we approach Halloween, what better way to celebrate than with the classic horror film trope, the haunted house! There are a lot to choose from, so, here is a sample realty catalogue of terror, from different decades, in which a dream home becomes a nightmare!
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This haunted house needs no introduction.
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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 Ones and some fun use of PA3 footage, 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 then 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 it’s 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 it’s lead character (aside from Toby) is beyond me. Boo!
2 and 1/2 spooks…it earns a few ‘hottie in Daisy Dukes’ extra points.
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2. Paranormal Activity (Obviously, you can screen the sequels, if you choose)
3. [REC] (2 & 3 are also entertaining, though 4 is not found footage)
9. Devil’s Due
10. Alone With Her
After the smash success of Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli returned to the director’s chair for his sophomore effort in 2009…and the movie has since languished in post-production hell for the last six years…now we know why. Found footage flick has a silly plot with three young friends (Darrin Bragg, Reid Warner and Ben Rovner) concocting an absurd scheme to break into the infamous Area 51 military base. They have the help of a former employee’s daughter (Jelena Nik) and succeed where many have failed.
Obviously, they are not happy with what they find…and neither are we. Flick takes a ridiculous 70 minutes for anything interesting to happen and at about 95 minutes long (including it’s slow crawl credits) that’s simply too long to wait. What we do get is amusing, but exactly what you’d expect to get in a flick about Area 51 and it’s fleetingly glimpsed and over far too quickly. There is barely anything resembling scares or suspense and what we do finally encounter is very predictable and been done before, especially in the X-Files…and done better. Area 51’s actual secrets may still be a mystery, but why this flick sat for six years and was quietly dumped onto VOD and home media, isn’t.
Director Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) has made quite a few classic films, which is why it’s disappointing that his latest effort is so sadly mediocre. Story has horror movie fan and slacker Max (Anton Yelchin) dating the hot but extremely bitchy, Evelyn (Ashley Greene), while he could be with the sweet, horror movie-themed-ice-cream-shop owner, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). The wrong words said in front of the wrong magic item in the shop Max works at, ensures he will be with Evelyn forever…even when she is hit by a bus and killed. Now, as he desperately wants to date Olivia, Max’s girlfriend is back and there’s going to be trouble.
Flick’s problems lie in it’s uninspired and sadly unfunny script by Alan Trezza. Dante tries to give it some life and it is colorful and filled with the horror movie references and imagery Dante excels at, but the script is unimaginative, predictable and let’s Dante down at every turn. The premise has been done before, but still could have made fun use of it’s scenario, instead it is routine and without the wit to really make this a good time. At least Dante get’s good work out of the cast as Yelchin, Greene and Daddario…who is especially endearing as the ultimate horror geek girlfriend fantasy, Olivia…do their best to get something out of their thinly written parts. With a better script this could have been a real treat as it had a great director!
I originally was not a fan of this series, but to be honest, each installment has been an improvement over the last with this and the previous installment, Ghost Protocol, being a lot of fun. Dare I say this series has finally hit it’s stride with it’s fourth and fifth entries. This chapter finds the IMF being dissolved by the government right in the middle of Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) mission to track down “The Syndicate”, an organization that is the IMF’s equal, yet dedicated to disruption and terrorism. Now considered a rogue agent and being hunted around the world, Hunt must team with Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther (Ving Rhames) and mysterious agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) to bring the syndicate down.
As written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation is fast-paced and entertaining with some great camaraderie between Cruise and his team, especially Pegg. There are some fun action sequences and some thrilling escapes with the usual espionage and covert operations mixed in. The only thing holding it back a little, is that the action is nothing out of the ordinary, despite being well-staged and the main villain (Sean Harris) is rather weak. Otherwise this is a fun spy/action flick and Swedish actress Ferguson gets to steal a few scenes from Cruise…which isn’t an easy thing to do. Also stars Alec Baldwin as a CIA thorn in the IMF’s side. Fun!
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The 1982 Poltergeist is a classic and even if it comes off as a bit cheesy, over three decades later, it’s still a roller coaster ride of fun. Gil Kenan’s remake, on the other hand, is a completely by-the-numbers, generic haunted house flick that reminds one more of the awful The Apparition than the Spielberg produced, Tobe Hooper directed fright flick.
Story is basically the same, with couple Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) moving with their three children, teen Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), young Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and little Madison (Kennedi Clements), into a housing development…built over a former cemetery, of course…and soon starting to experiencing paranormal activity. The activity seems to be targeting the two youngest, with Maddie in particular being the focus. Soon the little girl is abducted into a spirit realm and a paranormal crew, headed by famous TV ghost hunter Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), arrive to try and save Maddie and rid the house of it’s angry specters.
Completely unnecessary remake is unimaginatively written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed flatly by Gil Kenan, who brings nothing new or special to the tale. There are a few scant effective moments, but that is only when the film deviates slightly or tries to add a new wrinkle, like sending a toy drone, equipped with a camera, into the spirit realm. The film rarely tries anything new, though and basically follows the original story and very blandly at that. Kenan brings none of the fun that he gave his animated Monster House and writer Lindsay-Abaire rarely strays from the path set by the original movie. The flick also gives us very little to be scared of and doesn’t even try to match the original’s bombastic funhouse atmosphere. This flick is actually far more grounded and thus far less interesting and most of the time, it’s outright dull. The characters are all bland and not particularly endearing, like the slightly eccentric Freeling family were in the 1982 original. They also seem to accept the supernatural explanations far too easily to add any tension. If you are going to remake a classic like Poltergeist…and you really shouldn’t…then at least go somewhere new with it and really shake things up. People give Rob Zombie a lot of flack for his Halloween remake, but at least he tried to go in a different direction with it. This is a mediocre at best retread with none of the energy and life that was given the original film by those behind the camera. The look of the film and it’s lack of any real vitality evoked the recent and epically terrible, The Apparition far more than the beloved 1982 classic.
Despite the presence of vets like Rockwell and Harris the cast are also very bland and wooden. Rockwell seems like he is basically on a paycheck job and gives us none of the vitality he usually brings. Anyone could have played the part. Rosemarie DeWitt is equally bland and brings none of the fire Jobeth Williams had in the original. Sharbino is pretty, but a typical bratty teenager and Kennedi Clements is cute as Maddie, but just nowhere near as sympathetic or memorable as Heather O’Rourke. Only Young Kyle Catlett gives his role a little vibrance as Griffin, as does Jared Harris as the TV paranormal expert…but still, Zelda Rubenstein he’s is not.
Simply put, this is a boring and very generic remake whose few effective scenes come only when the film finally tries something new or deviates from the original story…mostly in the last act. Even then, it is only slight and the new elements are minimal. It’s not quite a scene for scene remake, but almost and none of it has the over-the-top energy or fun of the classic original. There are also no real scares either, including the new version of the infamous clown doll and if you can’t make a clown doll scary, than what exactly is the point? Watch the original.
2 epic fail scary clowns.
What is being proclaimed as the final chapter in this series, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension finally has a trailer. Sources say this flick will answer all the open questions, be partially in 3D and bring this successful found footage series to a conclusion. While these films have divided horror fans down the middle, I personally have had fun with them and hope this ends the series on a high note.
Of the new film, producer Jason Blum said… “It’s coming to an end. This is it, the finale. We’re saying it before the movie opens. We’re not going to grind this horror franchise into the ground. This will keep Paranormal Activity as part of this culture and this particular time in a really fantastic way…All the questions that everyone has asked from the past Paranormal Activity films: What does Toby look like? What’s the backstory to the families? These questions have been teased out. Now they will be answered.”
And of the plot… “a new family, the Fleeges — father Ryan (Chris J. Murray), mother Emily (Brit Shaw) and their young daughter Leila (Ivy George) — who move into a house and discover a video camera and a box of tapes in the garage. When they look through the camera’s lens, they begin to see the paranormal activity happening around them – including the re-emergence of young Kristi and Katie.”
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is slated to open in theaters 10/23/2015!
Sources: ShockTillYouDrop/Youtube/USA Today
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Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!
(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)
Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!