Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity (2007)

The Australian release on Bluray of Paranormal Activity

Film: Oh boy, do I hate found footage films.

To me, they are the reality TV of cinema. Lazy, cheap and boring filmmaking that require ridiculous reasons for there to either someone with a camera or a camera remotely set up; this became most evident as this particular series of films rolled on.

The Blair Witch Project is a fairly shoddily-made, uninteresting film that created a hubbub around its release by duping people into thinking it was real. In terms of it being a piece of marketing brilliance, I can’t deny that, but once the magician’s trick, ie that it wasn’t real, was revealed it immediately lost all of its power. I find it interesting that movies are allowed to get away with this so-called marketing. They basically told us it was a documentary and it wasn’t; usually if a company made false adverting claims like that it would be the end of their career.

Micah (Micah Stoat) got a new video camera

This film was written and directed by Oren Peli, who also directed 2015’s Area 15, and has acted as producer on all the Paranormal Activity sequels (of which there are several).

Paranormal Activity starts with a thank you to the families of the main characters Katie (Katie Featherstone) and Micah (Micah Stoat) and the police department for supplying them with the video tapes of the mysterious case surrounding the events of the film.

The film starts with day trader Micah and his brand new video camera as he decides to fill his days with filming his and Katie’s lives together, but something as awry. As the filming continues, Katie and Micah discover through looking back over recordings made of themselves asleep, that there might be something in the house with them… something malevolent… something that doesn’t appreciate a psychic investigator, or Micah’s amateur attempts with a Ouija board.

Quickly things escalate and we discover that maybe whatever it is may have a secret locked in Katie’s past..

Katie (Katie Featherstone) is really impressed with Micah’s new camera

Ok, so I have displayed my opinion of these films in my introduction, but this film has a couple of things going for it. One is the cast. Katie and Micah make for a realistic couple which is what really sells the ‘found footage’ style of the film. The other is the way their characters are written, and the way their relationship starts to dissolve as the events of the haunting become more intense.

The problem I have with this film is that it is a party trick. The entire film has no soundtrack, unless you count the occasional guitar plucking that Micah does, but what it does do is plays a very low hum anytime something ‘scary’ is about to happen, and it’s very low, so you don’t just hear it, you kind of feel it too. Most films do something similar, but they also have a score as well. This has silence, and then the creeping ‘ommmmmmmmmmm’ whenever its going for scares.

Scorsese claimed that Marvel made theme park rides rather than ‘proper’ cinema, and if that’s true, ‘found footage’ films are bad VR experiences like the ones you would have played in a Shopping Centre at $10 for 5 minutes.

To its credit, this disc does have two versions of the film on it, the theatrical version and an ‘alternate’ version, which is the same film, but with the last minute being different… the problem being that different ending can also be seen in the extra titled ‘alternate ending’ so why have them both here. Weird choice.

You may ask why I own this disc then, if I hate it so much, but that’s has a very simple answer: my wife digs these films and she’s not a fan of horror, so if the opportunity comes to watch a horror film with her, I’ll take it, even if it’s one I don’t like.

Score: *1/2

The Australian menu screen

Extras: There’s only two extras on this disc. The disc also starts with a trailer for Nowhere Boy, before hitting the menu.

Alternate Ending is pretty dumb and I’m sure the filmmakers are glad they didn’t go with it, otherwise Katie wouldn’t have been able to show up in sequels.

Paranormal Activity fans is one of the dumbest extras I’ve ever seen. It’s one of my most hated things, a stills gallery, but of people who must have submitted photos of themselves to appear on the home release? I feel like I’m owed 6 minutes of time for wasting it watching crap like this for a review.

I would have given the extras at least one star for the alternate ending, but the ‘Fans’ extra is an absolute insult unless you are one of the ‘lucky’ people who are on it.

Score: 0

WISIA: Straight back to the bottom of the rewatch pile it goes, and stays.

The psychic

The Visit (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Visit (2015)

Film: There are two things in modern horror of which I am not a great fan. The first is the so-called ‘found footage’ style of filmmaking. Whilst I appreciate the intention of making films that try to make one believe that they are a part of the universe in which the film exists, I don’t actually appreciate filmmakers using that as an excuse for first person filmmaking, which I find to be amateurish and distracting… Even if that is supposed to be the objective.

The second great unlikable is post-Sixth Sense films by M. Night Shyamalan. I mean no disrespect to the director, but after the stunning debut of The Sixth Sense, I feel he has never again reached those heights, and whilst his films look beautiful and have competent acting throughout, the stories have never thrilled me, and let’s face it, the crux of making cinema is telling a story. If you don’t have a ‘good’ story to tell, you have nothing.

Somehow though, and I suspect pan-dimensional travel, these two much maligned ideals have come together in a film which I totally enjoyed. To be honest, I watched this expecting to be able to do a ‘I hate this film so much’ review, but can’t, as I loved the damned thing!!

The Visit tells the story of teenage amateur filmmaker Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother, try-hard rapper Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) who are visiting their grandparents, from the mother’s (Kathryn Hahn) side, for the first time. The reason the kids have never met their grandparents is her mother is estranged from them after having a serious argument over her boyfriend whom they disapproved of her marrying, and she has never spoken with them since.

The marriage didn’t last however, and after the two kids were born he left, so it wasn’t long before the children began enquiring about their grandparents. Mum agrees to let them go visit on their own, and so our intrepid youngsters decide to make a documentary about meeting their grandparents for the first time.

This is where out ‘first person’ styled filmmaking comes in as the entire story is done from the point of view of the two cameras the children are using to film their documentary about meeting their estranged grandparents.

So the kids arrive in the small town and finally get to meet their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) and all feel an immediate affinity for each other and the kids are informed of only one rule: bedtime is 9.30pm.

Over the course of the next few days, and through the production of their documentary, the kids find that maybe their grandparents aren’t quite the nice and normal old folk that they seem to be, and things steadily get stranger… Especially after 9.30pm…

Quite simply, this film is brilliant. Shyamalan has perfectly cast the movie with actors that you may recognise, but they certainly aren’t big name stars. DeJonge and Oxenbould play the kids with just the right amount of ‘kidness’ in their wide-eyed view of the world but still with that touch of maturity that teens have. Oxenbould’s attempts at rapping are as perfect as they are as embarrassing from a 13 years old claiming to want a future as a rapper. 

The real highlight of the film is the performances of Nana and Pop Pop: at no time do you really know what’s going on with them, and the quirkiness of their nighttime shenanigans will freak you the HELL out, that’s for sure!

The story has an air of creepiness that pervades every element, which is extraordinarily clever as you really don’t know why, but again it comes from the fantastic performances by all involved. The grandparents AREN’T quite right… Or are they? Are the kids that are over analysing their behaviour, or is this just the way old people behave?

Unlike most Shyamalan’s films, the ending doesn’t come as a plot twist that will have you shocked, but instead is a natural progression of the story that makes perfect sense and doesn’t just seemingly come out of nowhere.

The device of the kids filming never becomes a distraction as there is always story being told, and the kids are engaging enough that you enjoy them on screen. Plus we all know know that hand held recording has come along way since the Blair Witch Project days!

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and really can’t recommend it highly enough… Even to those who have been bitten twice by ‘found footage’ and Shyamalan films.

Score: ****1/2

Format: A perfect looking region B bluray with no flaws, this film runs for 94 minutes and is presented in1.85:1 with a DTS-HD Master audio 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****


The Making of The Visit isn’t really a ‘making of’, but more a series of quotes from Shyamalan about why smaller movies are better, and how having a large budget corrupts filmmaking. It almost feels like he’s trying to convince us of why he has no A-Listers in the film, but I’m not sure why? Suffice it to say, none of the cast are interviewed and it’s really a vanity piece.

Deleted Scenes is a series of 10 short deleted scenes that wouldn’t have really added much to the film other than time, though a couple of them were a little creepy.

Alternate Ending is just that. It’s an interesting and heartfelt epilogue that may or may not have fitted the film; I can’t decide. It is a well acted piece though, and gives the underused Hahn an opportunity to really shine.

Becca’s Photos is a slideshow of picture the character has taken during her visit with her grandparents. I detest the waste of space on a moving image format of still images.

This bluray also comes with a digital ‘Ultraviolet’ download.

Score: **  

WISIA: I do like this movie but I am not sure if it has real repeat view value. Like of a lot these sorts of films though, upon a single rewatch, you do see some performance subtleties that mean something completely different after you have seen a film to the end.