Sunday, June 26, 2011

Paranormal Entity: because Netflix said I'd like it



Horror and comedy breed more rip-offs than any other genre. Independent studio The Asylum has put out more than its share of "mockbusters," including recent releases "200 MPH" and "The Almighty Thor" starring Richard Grieco and wrestler Kevin Nash.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that The Asylum released "Paranormal Entity" in 2009 to capitalize on the success of "Paranormal Activity."

For some crazy reason, Netflix said I would like this movie.


Netflix was wrong.

"Paranormal Entity" is the alleged found footage of Thomas Finley. An opening card tells us that Thomas was convicted of raping and murdering his sister Samantha. He contended that a demonic force committed the crime. Once convicted, Thomas committed suicide.

Thomas (played by writer/director Shane Van Dyke) is behind the camera for the majority of the film, cataloguing the lives of Samantha and their mother after the death of their father. Strange things start to happen. Mom and daughter act weird and sonny-boy Thomas is there to get it all on tape.

Sort of.

Unlike its more successful progenitor, "Paranormal Entity" is more herky-jerky with camera shots that move away from the action. The beauty of "Paranormal Activity" is when action intrudes upon static shots.

Off-screen activity, particularly in horror movies, can be a director's best friend. It can build tension as the audience waits to discover just what the horrible thing banging on the other side of the door is. Van Dyke, it seems, uses off-screen activity to hide the fact that he has nothing to show.

He gives us plenty of aftermath. Dirty footprints on the ceiling, a bloodied psychic, and eventually, the rape and murder of Samantha. Van Dyke held his cards for this moment, but it's the one scene that should have been played closer to the vest. Any suspense that might have been brewing is shattered as we see the battered body of Samantha hanging in the air.

I give Van Dyke props for dropping the camera here and using decent sound to convey the action. It's a choking gurgle and we are left to wonder if Samantha died at the hands of her invisible attacker or if Thomas put an end to her suffering. The next shot is Samantha, dead.

The creepy part, however, is not wondering what happened when the camera pointed away, but why the next shot is filled with Samantha's dead face and exposed breasts.
One must assume it is Thomas who picked up the camera, so why the focus on his dead sister's breasts unless he wasn't quite right in the head to begin with? This plot could have played better as a straight forward film instead of the "found footage" gimmick. The creepy brother with an unhealthy view of his sister made "The Amityville Horror II: The Possession" more unsettling than it otherwise would have been.

All in all, I should have known better. Just because Netflix said I should watch something doesn't mean I should.

Threat level: GREEN. Seriously, don't even bother. It's my duty to waste my time so that you don't have to. (For an explanation of Warning Signs ratings, see our Warning System page.)

"Paranormal Entity," written, directed, produced by and starring Shane Van Dyke is not rated and available on Netflix Instant Watch.

2 comments:

  1. fullilove (the fifth)May 20, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    dude. fuck you. this shit was good. its not always about scares and suspense, but motifs built upon throughout the story using both storytelling, cinematography, and editing to emphasis them. yes it played off of PA's success, in much the same way that PA played off of blair witch's success. camera style is one thing, but the actual production of the film, including the writing and directorial decisions, should be looked at with a fine tooth comb. dont dismiss it just because it didnt float your boat. you started watching this wanting to be wowed but expecting to be disappointed. and dont tell me you didnt because it is blatant from youre review. again, fuck you good sir.

    and really? drag me to hell was good? i walked out of it. cheap scares. jump at you shit the whole time. it was like the descent except even less of an allegory for the movement of mankind towards survivalist behavior in a contemporary setting.

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  2. Some of your points are well-taken. As reviewers we should go into any film with preconceived notions. Unfortunately, true objectivity is a rare commodity.

    And while I can tell you, dear commenter, that many of your points are valid, you'll never get anywhere when even good observations are coupled with the language you chose to use. I don't have a problem with swearing, but it weakens your argument. (Which is the same reason you won't see your follow-up comment here.)

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