Paranormal Entity (2009)

It’s Paranormal Activity … WITH BOOBS!

I had no real inspiration to review something today.  I couldn’t figure out what I was I the mood for.  Did I want to watch something I expected to be crap or something I expected to be good?  I decided to go with crap.  Some of you may remember a little review from a while back of a movie called Transmorphers, of a movie type known as a “mockbuster”.  Today’s movie is in a similar vein but, instead of trying to swagger jack a big budget action movie, it tries to swagger jack a low budget horror movie that made good for itself: Paranormal Activity.  How’d they do?  Let’s find out in my review of Paranormal Entity, written and directed by Shane Van Dyke, and starring Shane Van Dyke, Erin Marie Hogan, Fia Perera, and Norman Saleet.

Okay, you may remember the last time I told you this being complete bullshit, but this time it’s for real: this video actually happened.  No bullshit AND no homo!  Some guy named Thomas (Shane Van Dyke) was sent to jail for the murder of Dr. Edgar Lauren (Norman Saleet) and the rape and murder of his sister Samantha (Erin Marie Hogan).  He claimed that it was a demon but no one believed him.  He committed suicide in jail.  Later, the tapes of the haunting were found.  They called those Paranormal Activity.  A little later, someone stole the concept, and almost the title, for their movie.  We watch those tapes, seeing that Thomas and Samantha, along with their mother Ellen (Fia Perera), start getting harmless contact with something that they first decide is their recently deceased father/husband, but when the events start becoming more violent, specifically towards Samantha, they realize it’s something else.

I’ve freely admitted that I enjoy watching things about ghosts.  I don’t know that I’d be comfortable saying that I believe in them, having never had any experiences myself, but I would definitely say that I like to think they’re there.  So when I first saw Paranormal Activity, it captured my imagination and ended up being very interesting, even though I was well aware that it was all faked.  When I watched Paranormal Entity, I resented the fact that they so clearly ripped of a movie I liked while still being interested in the basic premise of the movie.  The idea of the movie is something that’s probably pretty easy to write.  All you need to do is have things happen to people that just need to react as they would to the situation.  I imagine you could get away with just writing about a page on the idea and you could make up all of the dialogue while filming it.  And coming up with the basic idea of the movie isn’t that difficult.  You just need to watch Paranormal Activity.  Although, technically, the story of Paranormal Activity didn’t require that much creativity either.  One thing they did do well in Paranormal Activity is give them a reason to use the camera.  Both movies had the basic idea of wanting to catch the haunting on camera to see what was going on.  But PA didn’t try to turn the movie into a first person shooter.  I can’t think of anything in PA that did not make sense for the person to have filmed.  In PE, they’re everywhere.  He decides to read a book through the camera, he uses it to find a piece of paper that was hidden under a pillow by zooming in on it, he looks at a vent that has noises coming out of it, he’s looking through it as he’s rooting through a toolbox, and he has the camera on and ready when he wakes up at two different times in the movie.  There’s a limit that you can still say that he’s doing things for posterity, and you passed it a long time ago.  It wouldn’t make sense for him to read a book for the first time through the camera.  Maybe he’d find something and feel the need to film it after he had already read the book, but not while reading it for the first time.  Why would you look at a vent when there wasn’t anything visual coming out of the vent?  You wouldn’t!  You would look with your eyeballs, which work very well without the use of a camera.  Hell, it would be a major hindrance to hold the camera while you were looking through a toolbox!  He was so tied to his camera’s viewfinder that he also apparently refused to look without the use of his eyes, like when he was trying to find Sam in the attic and, after a slow pan over every other inch of the attic, found that he had not seen her standing Blair Witch style about 5 feet away from him.  The light from the camera wouldn’t only light in a straight line; you’d definitely have been able to see her.  When the Ghost Adventures people look through their camera’s viewfinders all the time, it’s because they’re in pitch black areas and they can only see through the viewfinder.  You don’t have the same excuse, douche.  It seemed like they wanted it to look like we were that guy as opposed to watching a movie filmed by that guy.  I don’t know why it was happening, but the camera would cut to black for a frame or two so frequently that it felt like the camera was blinking for some reason.  Perhaps it was just getting really bored and starting to nod off.

What made Paranormal Activity interesting to me were the things they were able to do with such a low budget in order to sell what was going on.  But when you lack the ingenuity to come up with the premise of your movie, chances are you lack the same ingenuity to do anything special in your movie.  Everything within Paranormal Entity is something I would be able to accomplish with string.  The first thing that bothered me was that they were trying to make it look like it was filmed in night vision for parts, but it looked more like they put green cellophane over the camera.  You know they make cameras that actually film in night vision, right?  None of the things that the ghost did were impressive at all.  A table would move as if either a ghost, a demon, or a string were present.  They even let us see the string at one point, when he set up strings with bells on them in door frames, and I think we all know that the only way to get them to move without a ghost being present would be to pick up the entire house and shake it like an Etch-a-Sketch.  I couldn’t even imagine how a television would turn on without having to walk up to it and touch it.  At times, the filmmakers seemed to just give up on the idea of being able to do anything impressive so they just had the camera obscured when something was supposed to be happening.  The demon decided that it was super important to knock over the camera or close the closet door on the camera so that we could only hear someone screaming about what was going on.  Basically, all of these lazy and/or unimpressive effects took moments that could have potentially created some startles and made me laugh at them.  Take, for instance, when the demon had possessed the mother and caused her to slit her wrists.  I got a startle out of the cameraman waking up and turning the camera to see his mom standing there, but it instantly deflated when I realized they just rubbed some fake blood on her wrists, not having the energy to put anything on her wrists that made it look like there were cuts on them or that they were currently bleeding.  There were other things in the movie that made it pretty obvious that they weren’t willing to do anything in favor of the look of this movie.  Like the doors.  I was strangely fixated on the doors because they all looked so worn and beaten up that I figured they had to have been found outside in the elements, left over from the 18th century.  They also weren’t fitted right.  I’m no carpenter, but you typically don’t have to scrape doors along hard wood floors.  Maybe if there’s thick, shag carpet laid on top of that hard wood, but that wasn’t the case here.  And if you’re wondering why I was paying attention to all these other things, it’s because the movie wasn’t that good.

There weren’t many performances in this movie, but most of them were actually pretty good.  I didn’t like Shane Van Dyke’s character though, and that’s a big hindrance since he was the cameraman and the one we spent the most time with.  He reminded me of TJ Miller’s character from Cloverfield because he would not stop talking.  He just kept asking the same questions even though the person kept responding with, “I don’t remember doing any of that,” and jamming the camera into his traumatized sister’s face to get her to describe how she felt onto camera.  Fia Perera and Erin Marie Hogan did a pretty good job as the mother and sister, respectively.  I thought Hogan was being a bitch for a while in the beginning of the movie, but with a brother that annoying, who could blame her?  And, y’know what I’ve always said was missing from the Paranormal Activity movies?   Tits.  Hogan got hers out for this movie.  I assume that the filmmakers felt like that would take the place of quality.  It doesn’t.

My firm recommendation is: If you want to see a movie like Paranormal Activity, watch Paranormal Activity.  This rip off movie doesn’t manage to pull off any tension or scares that the movie it’s trying to be does, and the effects they use to represent the ghostly behavior is just lazy.  Instead of watching this movie, why not just get a camera and some string and make it yourself?  You stand a very good chance of doing it better.  The only thing in this movie that was acceptable was two of the performances, so I’d say you’d be better off if you just skipped it.  Paranormal Entity gets “Even the demon doesn’t want you to be able to see this movie” out of “Please … just send help …”

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