Posts Tagged ‘Paranormal Activity’

HALLOWEEN WEEK 2021! ‘PEOPLE LIKE TO BE SCARED WHEN THEY FEEL SAFE’

A Saturday matinee screening of Paranormal Activity was the first and only time I have ever heard anyone actually scream in a theatre. I don’t mean a quiet whimper followed by an embarrassed laugh or a frightened little squeal. No, I mean a full-on, open throated howl of terror.

The release of Paranormal’s prequel last weekend got me thinking about other big screen scream worthy scenes. So just in time for Halloween are some leave-the-lights-on movie moments.

If Alfred Hitchcock had any doubts about the effectiveness of the shower sequence in Psycho they must have been put to bed when he received an angry letter from the father whose daughter stopped bathing after seeing the bathtub murder scene in Les Diaboliques and then, more distressingly, refused to shower after seeing Psycho. Hitch’s response to the concerned dad? “Send her to the dry cleaners.”

The shower scene was terrifying but at least it was allowed to stay in the movie. In 1931, Frankenstein star Boris Karloff demanded the scene in the movie where the monster plays with a little girl, throwing flowers in a pond be cut from the picture. It’s a cute scene until the beast runs out of flowers and tosses the little girl into the water, leaving her to drown. Karloff, and audiences, objected to the violence against the youngster and the scene was shortened, then removed altogether and remained unseen until a special videotape release 48 years later.

More recently, The Exorcist (now beautifully restored on Blu Ray) so traumatized audiences with shots of the possessed Regan MacNeil’s 360-degree head spinning that in the U.K. the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade were on-call at screenings to tend to fainters. Star Linda Blair says she wasn’t traumatized by the film, but admits there has been one long lasting side effect. “You wouldn’t believe how often people ask me to make my head spin around,” she says.

Blair may have been unfazed while shooting her gruesome scenes, but not all actors emerge unscathed. Elisha Cuthbert was so grossed out while shooting the notorious blender scene in the down-and-dirty flick Captivity she says she felt “physically ill twice” and had to have a bucket nearby.

Scary scenes one and all, but recounting them begs the question, why are we drawn to them?

The quick answer comes from Alfred Hitchcock who said, “People like to be scared when they feel safe.”

THE LAZARUS EFFECT: 2 STARS. “crams a lot into its scant running time.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 4.46.49 PM“The Lazarus Effect,” a new low-budget thriller starring Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass, is about giving people a second chance. A new serum formulated by a group of young, good-looking geniuses prolongs the time after death that doctors can continue to safely try and revive patients. But, as always, when you trifle with the natural order of things there are unexpected consequences. “If we are going to be asking big questions we have to be ready for the answers,” says Zoe (Wilde), who, as it turns out, wasn’t as prepared for the answers as she thought.

Liberally borrowing from “Frankenstein’s” playing God cautionary tale, “The Lazarus Effect” sees researchers Zoe, Frank (Duplass) and Niko (Donald Glover) create a formula that defies death, bringing deceased animals back to life. (“What if we ripped him from doggie heaven?” wonders Zoe, weighing the ethics of reviving the dearly departed.) The mutts come back a little more ornery than they were the first time they were alive, but a trial run or two are successful enough that big pharma swoops in and steals their idea. In a last ditch attempt to prove their ownership over the serum they secretly do one final test but when the experiment goes awry they are forced to do an unscheduled human run with horrifying results. For such smart people they sure do a lot of stupid things.

“The Lazarus Effect” is the latest shocker from Blumhouse Productions, the folks responsible for the low-fi thrills of “Paranormal Activity,” “Sinister” and “Oculus.” They value atmosphere over actual horror, using shadows and jump scares to get pulses racing. Sometimes it’s very effective—“Insidious” leaves viewers with an icky unease that’s hard to shake—but just as often they fall flat.

“The Lazarus Effect,” clocking in at an economical 75 minutes, crams a lot into its scant running time, but fails to fully develop any of its ideas. It’s alive with Frankenstein references, but where old Frankenstein lumbered around, mostly meaning well when he wasn’t throwing little girls into lakes and being menaced by angry villagers, the recently deceased here flits around maniacally. They (THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS HERE) have high brain activity, can read minds and move things telepathically, which you’d think would be pretty cool, but their new talents only appear to make them angry. Combine that with an undeveloped religion vs. science subplot that finds our undead reliving the most traumatic moment of their lives over and over again and you’re left with bits and pieces of a story that are never stitched together to form a whole.

“The Lazarus Effect” has some corny lines—“Did I just die?”—a few unintentionally funny moments—the human comes back to life covered in a white sheet, like a kid’s ghost costume—and atmosphere to burn. What it doesn’t have is the sense of fun necessary to pull off the cheesy moments or the scares to sell it as a full-blown horror story.

ANNABELLE: 3 STARS. “like a Haunted House attraction at Halloween.”

_43786This prequel to “The Conjuring” proves that you can’t keep a good doll down. It tells the story of Annabelle, that movie’s creepy, possessed doll before she was safely locked away in ghost hunter Ed and Lorraine Warren’s cabinet of curiosities.

The story begins in the late 1960s with a gift from John (Ward Horton) to his expectant wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis). “There’s something I want to give you,” he says. “Oh no,” she laughs, “the last time you said that I ended up pregnant.” He gives her Annabelle, a seemingly harmless vintage doll, decked out in a lace wedding dress. “She fits right in,” Mia squeals. The quiet peace of John and Mia’s life is broken by a Manson Family style home invasion, and even though Mia and John survive, strange things start happening in the wake of the attack. “Crazy people do crazy things, ma’am,” explains a detective before everyone starts to realize that Annabelle has something to do with the weird goings on. Barbie she ain’t.

“Annabelle” is like a Haunted House attraction at Halloween. There’s nothing that’s really, truly soul-scorchingly scary inside, but it will give you a few good jolts. It’s part psychological drama, part Paranormal Activity and is filled with good weird atmosphere, but where “The Conjuring” had the benefit of two strong leads in Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, “Annabelle’s” stars, Wallis and Horton, aren’t very compelling. She put me in the mind of Sharon Tate, which is appropriate for the time and story and Horton reminded me of… nothing much at all. More interesting leads might have made me care more about the story.

The actors may be milquetoasty, but the movie’s low key eerie atmosphere isn’t. Director John R. Leonetti works in echoes of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Repulsion,” amping up the tension without the use of computer generated special effects. Instead he relies on silence and everyday sounds to make your skin crawl. The Self-Operating Sewing Machine from Hell and Satan’s Popcorn are effectively used in a movie that may be the quietest horror film ever made.

Metro Reel Guys: Annabelle “you can’t keep a good doll down.”

Annabelle_doll_the_conjuringBy Richard Crouse & Mark Breslin – Metro Reel Guys

SYNOPSIS: This prequel to “The Conjuring” proves that you can’t keep a good doll down. It tells the story of Annabelle, that movie’s creepy, possessed doll, before she was safely locked away in ghost hunter Ed and Lorraine Warren’s cabinet of curiosities. The story begins in the late 1960s with a gift from John (Ward Horton) to his expectant wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis). He buys her Annabelle, a seemingly harmless vintage doll, decked out in a lace wedding dress. “She fits right in,” Mia squeals. The quiet peace of John and Mia’s life is broken by a Manson Family style home invasion, and even though Mia and John survive, strange things start happening in the wake of the attack and it looks like Annabelle has something to do with the weird goings on.

STAR RATINGS:

Richard: 3 Stars

Mark: 3 Stars

Richard: Mark, Annabelle is like a Haunted House attraction at Halloween. There’s nothing that’s really, truly soul-scorchingly scary inside, but it will give you a few good jolts. It’s part psychological drama, part Paranormal Activity and is filled with good weird atmosphere, but where The Conjuring had the benefit of two strong leads in Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, Annabelle’s stars, Wallis and Horton, aren’t very compelling. She put me in the mind of Sharon Tate, which is appropriate for the time and story and Horton reminded me of… nothing much at all. More interesting leads might have made me care more about the story. Were you scared?

Mark: Yes I was, Richard, more from the expert filmmaking than what the actors brought to the picture. The director uses a lot of unusual camera angles and unexpected cuts to raise the suspense. And unlike so many horror movies that take place in dark, decrepit mansions, this one is bathed in light and uses a lot of California pastels. The story is familiar but the look of the movie kept me off balance. But it owes a big debt to Rosemary’s Baby, which you hinted at in referencing Tate, who was married to Roman Polanski. Horton looks a lot like John Cassavetes, the plot involves children and satanic cults and the couple lives in a penthouse. Do I make a decent case?

RC: It definitely has echoes of Rosemary’s Baby and I’d add in a taste of Repulsion in there as well. The actors may be milquetoasty, but the movie’s low-key eerie atmosphere isn’t. Director John R. Leonetti amps up the tension but without the use of computer generated special effects. Instead he relies on silence and everyday sounds to make your skin crawl. The Self-Operating Sewing Machine from Hell and Satan’s Popcorn are effectively used in a movie that may be the quietest horror film ever made.

MB: Yes, the movie is very good at making inanimate objects spooky. I also never thought of Cherish by The Association as being a scary song, but it’s just another example of how Leonetti twists conventions in this otherwise conventional movie. The part of the film that least impressed me was Annabelle herself. Not to malign the doll, but she’s no Bride of Chucky.

RC: She’s no Barbie either! She’s simply the prop that will allow producers to string together a series of prequels and sequels based on devil doll lore. Possessed or not, I’m guessing she works cheaper than the human actors.

MB: Wait! Barbie as devil doll! Talk about rebranding! Let’s get the pitch ready…

A Haunted House 2, A humorous hybrid of horror hits.

maxresdefaultBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

If the Paranormal Activity movies curdle your blood and The Conjuring kept you up at night, perhaps A Haunted House 2 will be more your style. A humorous hybrid of horror hits, it stars Marlon Wayans and Jaime Pressly in a sequel to the popular (but critically lambasted) 2013 comedy.

According to IMDB in the new film Wayans has “exorcised the demons of his ex” and is trying to start his life anew with his girlfriend. Unfortunately his new house turns out to be haunted and, even worse, his back-from-the-dead ex has moved in across the street.

It’s all played for laughs and will likely not give audiences nightmares but it would be interesting to know how the makers of movies like Sinister, The Possession, and Insidious feel about having their movies made fun of.

Some filmmakers are flattered.

Night of the Living Dead icon George A. Romero enjoyed the zombie takeoff Shaun of the Dead so much he asked star Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright to appear in Land of the Dead. The duo can be seen chained up in a 12-second cameo under a sign that reads Take Your Picture with a Zombie during the film’s carnival sequence.

But not everyone gets the joke.

Years ago Boris Karloff made it known he wasn’t very happy about a horror comedy. He was approached to play the Monster in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein but declined because he felt the duo’s brand of slapstick would be an insult to horror movies. Nonetheless he did some promo for the film—there are publicity pictures of him buying tickets at the box office—and later appeared in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff and Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Another horror legend said yes to Meet Frankenstein but no to the comedy. The movie was the only other time Bela Lugosi played Dracula on the big screen and he played it straight.

“There is no burlesque for me,” he said. “All I have to do is frighten the boys, a perfectly appropriate activity. My trademark will be unblemished.”

Finally, the movie Young Frankenstein gave overdue credit to an old time movie studio technician. When Mel Brooks was prepping the film he discovered that Ken Strickfaden, the designer of the “mad scientist” electrical machinery in the Universal Frankenstein films, had all the equipment from the original movies stored in his garage. Strickfaden agreed to rent Mel the props and received a screen credit, which he hadn’t been given on the original films.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES: 2 ½ STARS. “Creep Factor Four demonic action.”

Paranormal-Activity-The-Marked-OnesThe “Paranormal Activity” movies have made a fortune off things that go bump in the night. Never before had rippling sheets and shadows in corners been so terrifying.

You might think that over the course of four “found footage” films we might have had our fill of horrors shot by iPhones and security cameras and yet here’s “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” the fifth movie in the series. The concept is essentially the same but instead of calling it a sequel it’s labeled a spin off.

To connect it to the others “PA” veterans Molly Ephraim and Katie Featherston appear and the found footage idea is firmly in place, but it focuses on two new characters, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), teenaged knuckleheads of the Johnny Knoxville school.

Eighteen-year old Jesse buys a video camera with his graduation money and like everyone else in the “PA” movies proceeds to live his life on amateur video, but after he and Hector do a “Sherlock Holmes” and break into their dead neighbor’s apartment to investigate strange things start to happen.

Seems the elderly woman downstairs was into black magic and following their illicit visit, Jesse has nightmares, wakes up with bite marks and some odd new powers. Like a demonic Hulk, you won’t like him when he gets angry. Is it puberty or could it be that he is possessed?

“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is more of what we’ve come to expect from these movies—unexplained shadows, weird camera angles, a few “Don’t open that door!” moments and no real thrills until the last twenty minutes—but an engaging cast and some Creep Factor Four demonic action makes “The Marked Ones” a good Saturday matinee movie.

Of course it’s really silly. What makes us sure Jesse is possessed? Well, he’s moody and eighteen… and divide eighteen by three and what do you get? Do the math and prepare to have your mind blown!

Or not.

These “PA” movies have not been successful because they make sense. No, they’re successful because they deliver some laughs, some white-knuckle tension and the occasional BOO! moment. “The Marked Ones” checks all those boxes and does a good job of building tension in the last twenty minutes while delivering an ending that brings the series full circle and will tickle fans who have seen all the movies.

HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR DAY 3! “We’re all twisted” By Richard Crouse

The_Final_Destination_5_5_by_Jokerbrose101Final Destination 5 is a chronicle of carnage in which a group of good looking young people die in the most terrible ways imaginable, usually preceded by the tell tale line, “Something’s wrong!”

For example, a gymnast earns a 9.5 from the Splatterville judge and star Jacqueline MacInnes Wood succumbs to laser surgery gone horribly wrong. It’s the kind of movie which makes audiences shout, “No, you didn’t!” and “Awwwwwwwwwwwww! I can never un-see that!” usually while laughing and having a gruesome good time.

This week I asked Wood why people would pay money to go see her movie.

“We’re all twisted,” she said. “That’s the answer.”

Others have different ideas. In his excellent book Shock Value author Jason Zinoman suggests that one of the pleasures of getting scared at the movies is “that it focuses the mind.” He uses the example of a baby being born. “Try to imagine the shock of one world running into another,” he writes. “Nothing is familiar and the slightest detail registers as shockingly new. Think of the futility of trying to process what is going on. No wonder they scream.

“Overwhelming terror,” he continues, “may be the closest we ever get to the feeling of being born.”

Whether it’s as deep seeded as that or not, there is no denying that terror is a primal feeling. Its part of our DNA but, counter intuitively, it isn’t horrible when experienced at the movies. As Eduardo Andrade and Joel B. Cohen said in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, “the most pleasant moments of a particular event may also be the most fearful.”

A Saturday matinee screening of Paranormal Activity was the first and only time I ever heard anyone actually scream in a theatre. I don’t mean a quiet whimper followed by an embarrassed laugh or a frightened little squeal. No, I mean a full-on, open throated howl of terror. But the woman didn’t run from the theatre. She stayed and enjoyed the rest of the film, so she must have liked the cathartic release of tension the scream gave her.

Alfred Hitchcock, knew how to scare the wits out of people. The shower scene in Psycho, for example, is a benchmark in cinematic fear. If he had any doubts about the effectiveness of that sequence they must have been put to bed when he received an angry letter from a father whose daughter stopped bathing after seeing the bathtub murder scene in Les Diaboliques and then, more distressingly, refused to shower after seeing Psycho. Hitch’s response to the concerned dad? “Send her to the dry cleaners.”

The director was always quick with a line, but when it got down to the business of terrifying audiences he summed up the appeal of the scary movie in one brief sentence: “People like to be scared when they feel safe.”

Final Destination 5, “We’re all twisted,” she said. “That’s the answer.” By Richard Crouse

Psycho (1960) sinful-celluloidFinal Destination 5 is a chronicle of carnage in which a group of good looking young people die in the most terrible ways imaginable, usually preceded by the tell tale line, “Something’s wrong!”

For example, a gymnast earns a 9.5 from the Splatterville judge and star Jacqueline MacInnes Wood succumbs to laser surgery gone horribly wrong. It’s the kind of movie which makes audiences shout, “No, you didn’t!” and “Awwwwwwwwwwwww! I can never un-see that!” usually while laughing and having a gruesome good time.

This week I asked Wood why people would pay money to go see her movie.

“We’re all twisted,” she said. “That’s the answer.”

Others have different ideas. In his excellent book Shock Value author Jason Zinoman suggests that one of the pleasures of getting scared at the movies is “that it focuses the mind.” He uses the example of a baby being born. “Try to imagine the shock of one world running into another,” he writes. “Nothing is familiar and the slightest detail registers as shockingly new. Think of the futility of trying to process what is going on. No wonder they scream.

“Overwhelming terror,” he continues, “may be the closest we ever get to the feeling of being born.”

Whether it’s as deep seeded as that or not, there is no denying that terror is a primal feeling. Its part of our DNA but, counter intuitively, it isn’t horrible when experienced at the movies. As Eduardo Andrade and Joel B. Cohen said in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, “the most pleasant moments of a particular event may also be the most fearful.”

A Saturday matinee screening of Paranormal Activity was the first and only time I ever heard anyone actually scream in a theatre. I don’t mean a quiet whimper followed by an embarrassed laugh or a frightened little squeal. No, I mean a full-on, open throated howl of terror. But the woman didn’t run from the theatre. She stayed and enjoyed the rest of the film, so she must have liked the cathartic release of tension the scream gave her.

Alfred Hitchcock, knew how to scare the wits out of people. The shower scene in Psycho, for example, is a benchmark in cinematic fear. If he had any doubts about the effectiveness of that sequence they must have been put to bed when he received an angry letter from a father whose daughter stopped bathing after seeing the bathtub murder scene in Les Diaboliques and then, more distressingly, refused to shower after seeing Psycho. Hitch’s response to the concerned dad? “Send her to the dry cleaners.”

The director was always quick with a line, but when it got down to the business of terrifying audiences he summed up the appeal of the scary movie in one brief sentence: “People like to be scared when they feel safe.”

‘People like to be scared when they feel safe’ In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA Published: October 29, 2010

123A Saturday matinee screening of last year’s Paranormal Activity was the first and only time I have ever heard anyone actually scream in a theatre. I don’t mean a quiet whimper followed by an embarrassed laugh or a frightened little squeal. No, I mean a full-on, open throated howl of terror.

The release of Paranormal’s prequel last weekend got me thinking about other big screen scream worthy scenes. So just in time for Halloween are some leave-the-lights-on movie moments.

If Alfred Hitchcock had any doubts about the effectiveness of the shower sequence in Psycho they must have been put to bed when he received an angry letter from the father whose daughter stopped bathing after seeing the bathtub murder scene in Les Diaboliques and then, more distressingly, refused to shower after seeing Psycho. Hitch’s response to the concerned dad? “Send her to the dry cleaners.”

The shower scene was terrifying but at least it was allowed to stay in the movie. In 1931, Frankenstein star Boris Karloff demanded the scene in the movie where the monster plays with a little girl, throwing flowers in a pond be cut from the picture. It’s a cute scene until the beast runs out of flowers and tosses the little girl into the water, leaving her to drown. Karloff, and audiences, objected to the violence against the youngster and the scene was shortened, then removed altogether and remained unseen until a special videotape release 48 years later.

More recently, The Exorcist (now beautifully restored on Blu Ray) so traumatized audiences with shots of the possessed Regan MacNeil’s 360-degree head spinning that in the U.K. the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade were on-call at screenings to tend to fainters. Star Linda Blair says she wasn’t traumatized by the film, but admits there has been one long lasting side effect. “You wouldn’t believe how often people ask me to make my head spin around,” she says.

Blair may have been unfazed while shooting her gruesome scenes, but not all actors emerge unscathed. Elisha Cuthbert was so grossed out while shooting the notorious blender scene in the down-and-dirty flick Captivity she says she felt “physically ill twice” and had to have a bucket nearby.

Scary scenes one and all, but recounting them begs the question, why are we drawn to them?

The quick answer comes from Alfred Hitchcock who said, “People like to be scared when they feel safe.”