Shane Van Dyke
Erin Marie Hogan
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Paranormal Entity (2009)
4th Mar 10
It's Paranormal Activity but not as we know it.
Review Paranormal Activity was, along with Trick 'r Treat , one of the horror gems of last year. Using the same hand-held camera technique of The Blair Witch Project the viewer bore witness to the ghostly goings-on in an American couple's house leading up to an abrupt and quite thrilling climax. It was shot on the cheap and took over $100million Stateside alone.
It also divided audiences. Those who lacked the imagination to truly appreciate Paranormal Activity were left cold and disappointed whereas those that don't have to be bludgeoned with cheap shocks went home wondering what that noise in the other room could be as they went to sleep that night.
One of the side-effects of a hit formula are the inevitable spin-offs and rip-offs. Say hello to one of the first out of the bag Paranormal Entity courtesy of 'mockbuster' specialists The Asylum. The Asylum is a production company known to get out a quick spin on a noted success bypassing cinema and hitting the retail market at pretty much the same time the original movie makes its mark hoping to trade on the association from those not paying attention enough to the title they have picked up at their local Blockbuster. A past example of The Asylum's output is the rather miserable Snakes on a Train which managed to make the film works of director Uwe Boll look like classics in comparison.
Copying movies that have a budget with a lack of one has it's drawbacks and this is evident when watching most of The Asylum's output, not that they care a jot, they just want to make good on the cashing in. With Paranormal Entity the lack of a budget works in their favour given that their source movie cost just $19,000 and they manage to make a semi-decent flick in the process copying the style and set-up perfectly and putting their own spin on things in the process.
Style-wise it was always going to be easy to copy a movie set in a house with a camera capturing the spooky happenings and director - and star - Shane van Dyke does so with aplomb. It also helps that the people featuring in front of the camera can appear to act. So OK, we're not talking Oscar standard here but for a film of such beginnings and budget you'd be hard pressed to find similar even from Paranormal Activity itself. The performances from van Dyke, Ering Marie Hogan (playing sister Samantha, who is SO not nineteen years old) and Fia Perera (as Ellen, the mother) are far more natural feeling than those from the lead couple in Oren Peli's movie.
From the initial concept and including two days to film it Paranormal Entity was thought up and wrapped within two weeks. Here we have a daughter and mother experiencing bangs-in-the-night in separate rooms as their brother/son tries to capture it all on camera rather than one couple in one room. There is no timer on the camera, no speeded up footage and the ending is given courtesy of a phone recording at the start.
There are obviously going to be variations upon certain aspects; rather than footprints in placed talcum powder on the floor now we have footsteps in the ashes from a toppled urn and yep things do end up featuring things going on in the house's attic but this is more than your average cash-in.
Paranormal Activity does its utmost via its publicity and website to have people believe that what they are witnessing actually took place. It's a gimmick that's been done to death and no one is really that dumb that they'll buy into it are they? The premise is that twenty-three year old Thomas Finley puts in an emergency call when the psychic phenomena being experienced claims the lives of his nineteen year old sister Samantha as well as a paranormal investigator; only to be arrested. What the viewer is watching is the video footage Finlay shot leading up to his call and subsequent arrest.
Whether it was by default or by design Paranormal Entity actually makes for a semi-decent evening's viewing for those daft enough to have picked it up thinking it was the other movie. Whilst it lacks the initial oomph that Activity had the makers here have apparently given more thought than you would think to making their own movie work and it does. It's nowhere near as nerve shredding as the movie it is ripping off but the format lends it an intimacy that pulls you in and gets those BOO moments working. In short a fairly decent rental and a rather guilty pleasure for those expecting it to be naff.