Orphan Andrew

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Gavin Grades The Movies

Paranormal Activity 3

Goddamnit!  The Paranormal Activity movies are some of the most fun and most scared you can have in a theater.  From the very first seconds of all these films, you’re put on edge.  Part of that is because you know what’s in store for you but the home movie, do-it-yourself aspect of the films give you this impression that you’re right there with these characters and you’re just as alone as they are.  They’re the kind of horror film that makes you want to be a horror director since they are the closest to duplicating the sensations you feel as you walk through a haunted house that I’ve ever experienced.

In the third (and hopefully final) installment, we find ourselves in 1988 at the beginning of the story to find out what happened to our lovely ladies from the first two films when they were younger.  Yes!  This is EXACTLY what I was hoping for in a trilogy, but sadly Paranormal Activity 3 made the fatal mistakes that any prequel runs the risk of doing.  If you’re gonna be the ballsy bastard that wants to take on a popular franchise and show us how it all began, those puzzle pieces need to line up perfectly for us.  I don’t want any air bubbles trapped in between since in the end that will make me ask more questions than feel the satisfaction of knowing the answers.  That’s a killer for a prequel.

Paranormal Activity 3 attempted to answer all the questions, and they did answer some, but its execution is confusing and doesn’t gel with the legacy we’ve come to know.  There are HUGE holes in the plot of this film and it makes me wonder how such glaring problems could have passed through the hands of so many people who made it.  I can’t tell you what they are without giving away some spoilers.  I also won’t because if you don’t remember the story up to this point, it won’t ruin the movie for you at all…in fact it might make it better.  Also, if you never saw the first two films, you’ll probably enjoy this more than if you were a massive fan of the first two.

The “found footage” approach to this one feels more forced than before, however directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman did incorporate one of the most suspenseful film techniques ever in a modified oscillating desk fan that might be the scariest character in the film.  I don’t blame Joost and Schulman for the movie’s shortcomings at all.  These were the two guys that brought us an equally scary but totally different movie called Catfish.  This was a documentary about predatory online delusions (listen to my interview with both of them at the bottom of this review) and being documentarians brought a fresh aspect to this mockumentary franchise.

Although I liked this one the least in the series, it’s far from disappointing in the scare-the-s**t-out-of-you trademark.  There are few horror movies that can build such palpable tension that it makes me shield my eyes from the screen like a kid, but these consistently do just that.  I just wish it kept me up at night by making me remember all the terrifying moments rather than keeping me up trying to figure out how the stories come together.

Paranormal Activity  (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+

here to listen to the interview with directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Review Coming Soon...

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The Thing

Horror icon, John Carpenter, brought us The Thing in 1982.  It was one of the first horror movies I watched as a kid where I had my mind blown over what could be done with special FX makeup!  It was absolutely amazing to watch a man's head fall off his shoulders, sprout spider legs and eyes and then crawl away.  If you never saw the original and that sentence makes you think the exact opposite of "amazing," then this prequel to the 29-year-old original will do nothing for you because what made the original so amazing was the prequel's undoing.  I love prequels.  I think it's really fun to watch what happened before the movie you already love.  In the original they talk about the camp that discovers the alien that can shape-shift into any other living thing but you never see it.  That camp is what this film is all about but it's the exact same story.  There is almost no difference between the two, even in the choice of casting Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Animal Kingdom) as the hero because when dude sports a beard he looks EXACTLY like Kurt Russell, who was the hero in the original.  I did like that the true star of the film was a woman, who was played by the gorgeous Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Death Proof).  It makes me think of Ripley in the Alien franchise although she's far from the tough-as-nails that Sigourney Weaver trademarked!  I love the aspect of how isolating this film is.  It takes place in Antarctica which is so cold and lonely that it might as well be space.  Not only that, but I love the spookiness of untrust, where the killer could be lurking inside the skin of any one of the main characters.  It makes it a very unique horror film that also comes with the joy of seeing great monster makeup and FX.  Sadly, I saw ALL of that in the original and this one doesn't break any new ground.  It's almost like new director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. (no, my cat didn't walk across my keyboard...that's his name) assumed that no one saw the first one and could get away with just remaking it.  I'm not against remakes either.  If they're done well, I think they can potentially be better than the original.  But I think prequels are way better and I especially don't appreciate it when prequels don't want to call themselves remakes, which is exactly what The Thing did.  Is it scary?  Not really.  Is it cool?  At times.  They disapointed me at times by using CGI to create some of the monster FX the original accomplished with old school make-up AND still looked faker than it did in 1982, but I give the studio credit in simply trying to make a monster movie again; something that sadly seems to have vanished from the lanscape.  But in a movie about a killer alien that can carbon copy itself into anything, I wish The Thing didn't carbon copy itself into the 1982 original. The Thing  (Rated R) Gavin Grade: C+
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