Saturday, July 17, 2010

Paranormal Entity (2009)

I am continually amazed by the existence of The Asylum. These innovators of the "mockbuster" have somehow managed to stay afloat on a business model of nothing but cheesy knockoffs of mainstream movies. I usually just ignore their movies, since they generally aren't anything I'm interested in.

But a couple of them have caught my eye, however. One was Monster, which I reviewed this past Sunday. The other was Paranormal Entity, a rather blatant attempt to cash in on the unexpected success of Paranormal Activity. I don't particularly know why Paranormal Entity grabbed my attention, but when I saw it was available on Netflix's "Instant Streaming" feature, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Welcome to the home of Ellen Finley (Fia Perera) and her twentysomething kids, Thomas (Shane Van Dyke) and Samantha (Erin Marie Hogan). For some time now, something supernatural has been making itself comfortable in their house. While they initially thought it was the spirit of the recently-deceased family patriarch trying to communicate with them, they've found that it instead wants to cause them problems. It's relatively harmless at first; phones ring with nobody on the other line, dishes in the kitchen are broken, the TV turns on and off on its own.

But as time goes by, the spirit becomes much more agitated. It is especially drawn to Samantha, who is actually physically attacked by it. However, none of the Finleys will be safe when the ghost escalates its malevolent behavior.

While I can see how someone could have an opinion of it that differs from mine, I thought Paranormal Activity was great. Granted, it has its flaws. It's not a perfect movie. But I felt it was effective enough and accomplished what it wanted to do. Paranormal Entity, on the other hand, isn't so great. It's not as bad as Monster, but it's still pretty lame. They aren't hiding the fact that it's supposed to be a Paranormal Activity clone, with quite a few scares and scenes lifted directly from the movie it's copying. They don't even replicate the scenes that well, either.

The odd thing about it is that there are no production credits whatsoever. There are no credits for a crew or cast at the end of the movie, or even the Asylum logo. Even The Asylum's website lists the credits as "not available." But thanks to that glorious series of tubes called the Internet, I've found some names and can do a more accurate review.

Serving as the movie's writer and director is Shane Van Dyke, who I felt did a really disappointing job on both ends. As a director, Van Duke could have done a lot better. There are precious few real scares, and very little tension or suspense to speak of. Anything he does do right, I've seen done better elsewhere.

What gets me is how utterly cheap the movie looks. Oren Peli made Paranormal Activity on a reported budget of 15,000 dollars, but Van Dyke's budget must have been whatever change he found under his couch cushions one weekend. The whole movie has an artificial feeling to it. The home furnishings looks like they were on loan from a furniture store, and the house looks like one that a real estate agent would put on display in new neighborhoods. The house doesn't feel lived in at all. The shelves are all empty, there are no personal touches to anything, and they even have one of those plastic security covers over the thermostat.

I also got a laugh out of some of the smaller things. The night-vision scenes don't even resemble night-vision, instead looking like someone slapped a funny color filter over regular footage. And that noise that indicates the ghost is doing something? It sounded like a plane was flying overhead, or a loud air conditioner was turning on. I don't know why I thought that was so funny, but I couldn't help but giggle every time it happened.

As a writer, Van Dyke continues to disappoint. Not only does he only give us half an ending, but he barely feels like he's making any sort of effort to create his own movie. Like with my review of Monster, I must admit that I shouldn't be upset when a mockbuster totally rips off a movie. But after a certain point, when does a movie stop being a clone and start being a remake? I mean, after a while, I started wishing I was watching Paranormal Activity instead.

And let's not forget the gigantic plot hole. (Beware yon spoilers!) It's stated outright at the beginning of the movie that Thomas was arrested for raping and killing Samantha before killing himself in prison. But at the end, it's stated that Thomas was killed by the ghost too. I cannot explain how little sense that makes. Was the editor not paying attention to that? Did they not have anyone overseeing the movie's continuity? Sigh...

The only thing left for me to review is the cast. That shouldn't be too hard, considering that there are only four people in the movie, and one of them has probably less than five minutes of screen time. And to be perfectly honest with you, the cast is disposable. Van Dyke is especially disposable, as I don't think we ever even see his face through the whole movie. The only actor who I felt made any sort of impression was Erin Marie Hogan. Her performance isn't anything spectacular, but it's believable. Hogan is better than the movie deserves, in any event.

Paranormal Entity is one of those bad movies that is watchable, yet still manages to annoy you with how dumb it is. If you're not a fan of the "found footage" style of horror movie, then you'll probably skip it altogether anyway. But if you do dig that sort of thing, just stick with Paranormal Activity instead. Paranormal Entity isn't the worst of the two Asylum movies I've seen thus far, but that doesn't stop it from being a tremendously bad waste of time.

Final Rating:

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