Tag Archives: Paranormal Activity

Updates: Paranormal Activity 4 & Confirmation of PA5

Paranormal Activity is rapidly becoming a franchise dangerously close to overstaying its welcome. Even though the first one and second had their fair share of haters, I thought they had told a pretty solidly creepy story. The third, not so much. As I said in my last update, if they wanted us to accept this an anthology type series, they’d have started with 2. My guess is the “creepy” kid from the trailers is the child Katie took at the end of PA2, who now may or may not be a demon. I guess it’s a good half measure between a full on continuation and a wholly new story. The good folks over at Bloody-Disgusting have an informative update from the directors, who give the briefest of glimpses into what the actual plot for the film is, as well as whether a particular character will return or not.

via Bloody-Disgusting:

Catfish duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman talked Paranormal Activity 4 in the newest issue of EW where they confirm that the sequel, in theaters October 19, will be a modern-day take. They also reveal that they’re working on expanding the mythology into a fifth film (obviously).

“I can tell you this – we’re definitely expanding on the mythology and the history of this demon,” Schulman says of PA4. “We’re really trying to get to the bottom of it!”

Were told that the sequel will explore the family of witches (who live next door to a newly introduced family) in this fourth film from creator/producer Oren Peli. While inside insiders tell us Katie Featherston won’t return, the filmmaking duo refuse to clarify. I guess we’ll find out in just under two months!

Along with those details are a few photos that have been released on Facebook and Instagram for PA4, which show some shadows and the main girl character levitating. The thing that makes me suspicious about all of this promotion is how the last movie was promoted. So many interesting ads and clips were released that implied almost an entirely different (read:scarier) movie. These promotional photos sure look captivating, but who’s to say they’ll even be indicative of the final product? I wouldn’t be surprised if this blond girl character turned out to not even be the main character at this point.

Those photos are nice and all, but boy am I skeptical about this one. The one positive, definite change I can see is its set in modern times, so we’ll avoid any weird anachronisms like the last one. If I sound overly negative, it’s because I’m the most critical of things I love the most, and boy did I love PA 1 & 2. I’m really hoping to be surprised by this film, but like all things I prepare for the worst.

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New ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ Trailer! Now With More Ret-cons!


The Paranormal Activity movies are an interesting phenomenon (is that an accidental pun?) in the world of cinema. What started out as an effective, cheaply made, indie flick has now bloomed full on into a Hollywood juggernaut, and looks on track to becoming the next Saw-like yearly horror franchise. The similarities between the two continue as their sequels even out in numbers too, because while Saw became increasingly more convoluted and weird with each movie, so are the PA films. I remember seeing Saw 3 in theaters and thinking – “Well, how the hell are they gonna make a sequel now? Jigsaw is dead!” Oh shit. Spoilers? Bah, that movie is years old anyway, and it’s pretty shitty, so really I’m doing you a favor. Back on topic, I remember thinking how they could possibly stretch that franchise out post-Jigsaw, and sure enough, they found a way. Some could argue it was clever, but I’d simply say those people have clearly never heard of the concept of the “ret-con”, which any comics fan will be very familiar with.

The same is already applying with Paranormal Activity, but it’s somehow become even more full of plot holes and contrivances, with 4 fewer movies than the Saw franchise. I enjoyed the first movie immensely, and thought the second was a creative continuation/prequel. The third seemed to be getting a bit old, despite some creative gimmickry, mostly because of contradictions passed off as “mysteries to be solved” for later sequels, as well as the many cool looking promotional material and trailers. Even if they had nothing to do with what the movie was actually about, nor did they even have that footage in the film. Add in all the anachronistic mistakes prevalent in the film, and it really started to scream “I WAS PHONED IN” at the audience. [Editor’s Note – The last 10 minutes of PA3 scared the shit out of me. That is all.]

So what am I getting at? Basically I’m hoping that this new PA movie will retcon the bad things from PA3 that made no sense, and re-establish itself as a really well made, well acted, realistic exploration of the paranormal, without making any more excessive trips into stupid-town to give us all a SHOCKING TWIST ENDING of Shyamalanian contrivance.

If I was directing these movies, I’d pull a Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch, and make them self-contained episodic films, each taking place in a new house, new family, and lay down a framework of back story about the actual demon, rather than follow one dumb family that inexplicably has a long history of recording every waking moment of their lives. Unfortunately, for that to work and be accepted, they’d have to have started that with PA2.

So now we’ll take our ghostly medicine in the form of endless sequels until PA8 where it ends with Katie or Crissie or whoever is battling the ghost/demon on top of a magical spirit tower, while a coven of witches surrounds them chanting and holding newborns. Then GOD himself will appear and smite all of them, and we’ll all pass out in our seats from the retardation of the whole thing.

On a high note – Kate Featherston returns for the 4th time as ‘Katie’.

Grizzly Review: Chernobyl Diaries

In a horror film, setting and atmosphere is 90% of what can make a great horror film. The other 10% is made up of a combination of a well-written script and good scares. It’s often easy to have one or the other, but combining both and making the film seem natural is a feat on its own. So, for the sake of this review, if we’re going to go by this rational, I guess I could say that Chernobyl Diaries is about 92% of a movie, with the other 8% off somewhere on the cutting room floor, never to be seen again.

It seems that with the end of the Saw series, the torch held by the filmmaker who releases a decent horror film in a series every year has been passed on to Oren Peli, the mind behind Paranormal Activity. Releasing another installment in the Paranormal Activity series every year around Halloween-time, Oren Peli has secured a spot as one of the top writers and producers in the business right now, a title once held by the team of geniuses horror buffs know as Leigh Whannell and James Wan.

In fact, Oren Peli, Leigh Whannell, and James Wan, who I like to call The Trifecta, collaborated on last year’s Insidious, a film that, to this day, holds up as one of the scariest and most interesting horror films I’ve ever seen. I’ve always considered this film to represent the official passing of the torch from Wan and Whannell to Peli. It was released in the midst of the last Saw film and it marked something of a farewell for fans of the series until Whannell and Wan were able to return with another project to scare audiences.

The reason that series’ like Saw and Paranormal Activity work is because of the continued story line that keep audiences asking for more. I respect what Oren Peli is doing with his films. He’s obviously fascinated with the fear of the unknown, and he successfully exploits that fear with millions of audience members every year. And it seems like he’s just been getting better at what he does. Insidious and Paranormal Activity 3 are two of his most accomplished projects, and I see nothing but more success for him in the near future.

Chernobyl Diaries is the first film that Peli’s produced that isn’t made with creative geniuses behind the camera. With Insidious, he had the reliable career of both James Wan and Leigh Whannell to at least ensure some kind of box office return, but with Chernobyl Diaries, it seems like the only thing guiding him was his experience and his faith in the film’s success.

Enlisting Shane and Carey Van Dyke, two writers known for their work over at mock-buster company “The Asylum”, as well as visual effects supervisor and designer Bradley Parker as director, Chernobyl Diaries was pretty much set to become a disaster. Plus, the casting of Jesse McCartney didn’t make much of a case for the movie either. But after seeing the movie, I have to admit that the biggest irony is that the script, which was written by two people who are known for their lack of talent and originality, features quite a bit of both of those things. On a side note, it’s hilarious to me that Oren Peli is working with the Van Dyke’s who, with The Asylum, made a mockbuster of Paranormal Activity called Paranormal Entity.

The story follows a group of tourists who decide to do something called “extreme tourism”. They decide to go out to Chernobyl, which was subject to a fatal amount of nuclear radiation exposure, forcing all of its residents to abandon the city as quickly as possible, leaving all the buildings and belongings behind. No form of government ever bothered to tear it down and it serves as nothing more than an attraction for tourists who dare visit there.

Leading the expedition is Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), ex-military turned extreme tour guide. In tow are American tourists Natalie (Olivia Dudley), Amanda (Devin Kelley), and Chris (Jesse McCartney) who are all there to visit Chris’ brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) who has been living in Russia for a while now. Also coming along for the tour are Australian tourists Michael (Nathan Phillips), and Zoe (Ingird Bolso Berdal). After being denied entrance by two Russian soldiers, Uri is forced to take a detour that allows them enter the town from a different angle.

Once they get to Chernobyl, everyone is able to explore a lost city. Everything that was there during the radiation exposure is still there, and everyone in the group are fascinated by the city’s preservation even after all the tragedy that had been bestowed upon it. After the tour is over, the group makes its way back to Uri’s van. After unsuccessfully trying to start the van numerous times, Uri finds that the cables in his van have been cut up, leaving the group stranded in Chernobyl until they can go and get help.

I refuse to say what happens after that because that’s half the fun of this film. By slightly tweaking the horror formula a little bit, Chernobyl Diaries is a film that kept me guessing until the end twist, which is a gleefully horrifying tip of the hat to an unsuspecting audience. I’m already going to go ahead and say that Chernobyl Diaries is this year’s Red State. Sure to divide audiences and critics in every way that division is possible, what the film lacks in spine-tingling scares, it makes up for with a script that takes the time to set up and develop its characters as well as keep the audience guessing up until the final minute.

The unique setting of Chernobyl is used in every way possible, resulting in a series of truly genre-defining moments that will be hard to recreate in future, similar films. The direction by Bradley Parker is intimate and invading, almost to the point of resulting in a found-footage film. But fortunately, instead of going with that method, Chernobyl Diaries disregards recent trends and makes a much more effective film by not having people consistently stare into a camera lens and document their findings and surroundings.

Chernobyl Diaries suffers from a distinct lack of soul-crushing scares, but with a script that cares about the development of its characters and a deliberate pacing that leads up to a knockout ending, it seems as if the film is much more concerned with the raw emotional reaction of its characters’ situation. The performances are, for the most part, believable. Jesse McCartney delivers his lines awkwardly at some moments, but with two screenwriters that could have ruined this film beyond belief, they do a respectable job with the dialogue they write.

Above all, Chernobyl Diaries works because of the consistently unsettling atmosphere it gives its audience. While never taking the step toward scary, there’s no doubt that it’s at least creepy, and the film’s unique setting makes it all the more fascinating. I can already predict the sudden spike in Ukrainian tourism after the release of this film. By summer 2013, Chernobyl will be the hottest spot in town. Buildings will be restored to their former glory and five-star hotels will be created in memoriam of the victims of the radiation exposure!

3.5/5 Bears

Grizzly Review: Project X

Every teenager wants the opportunity to be the coolest kid in the school. The dream that one day everybody will be chanting your name is sometimes what keeps students going for what can be the worst four years of their lives. It’s true, though, when people say that all it takes is one amazing night to change everything you know about being popular, and what everyone else knows about you. Project X is that night. Project X is that dream come true. Project X is that party.

As I’ve mentioned in reviews for films like Chroniclefound footage has been plaguing cinemas for the past few years. I’m actually quite a big fan of found footage, but I guess I’m the only one. Regardless, it puts the asses in the seats and brings in the dough. Found footage works, in my opinion, because it brings the viewer closer to the characters. It helps them feel like they’re actually there. For some films like the Paranormal Activity and REC series, found footage really works. In fact, 2012 marks the first year that found footage films haven’t been dominated by horror flicks. The genre is expanding rapidly, and the results are actually quite astonishing.

Project X follows three teenagers who throw the biggest high school party of all time. Thomas Mann, Costa, and JB (who all use their real names), plan a “little get-together” for Thomas’ birthday that soon turns into anarchy with 1500+ guests. There is some footage of before the party with all the planning, as well as after the party, AKA, the cleanup. Most of Project X is just people partying. Things like plot and character development take a backseat to things like booze and boobs.

Advance screenings have described Project X as “the best party movie ever” and “Superbad on crack”. These claims are all 100% correct. If you’re willing to accept the silliness, the cliches, and the sometimes very raunchy humor, Project X is actually quite enjoyable. Many critics have deemed the film misogynist and mean-spirited. One critic called the characters, and I quote, “unrepentant, nihilistic, vile, venal, animalistic, avaricious, charmless, entitled, sub-Kardashian, stunningly irresponsible brats.”

All I have to say is, congratulations, sir, you just described a teenager. I related quite a bit to the characters, their plight, and their search for fame. In fact, that’s what makes Project X worth watching. While the dialogue is nowhere near genius, it’s honest. The movie is honest. It knows teenagers just as well as teenagers know teenagers.

Granted, the constant insanity can get a little tiring until something new happens, but there’s no doubt that Project X is chaos cinema at its finest. The direction by music video director Nima Nourizadeh definitely shows, as there are some sequences throughout the film that actually play out like music videos, but it’s impossible to not marvel at the sometimes visionary camerawork that makes this party seem so damn enticing.

Much like Chronicle, the main cameraman, Dax, isn’t the only one shooting the footage. In fact, producer Todd Phillips equipped certain members of the cast with recording devices like iPhones and camcorders so that him and Nourizadeh could go through all of it later and pick out snippets to put in the film, truly making Project X a found footage film.

Project X is an experimental film in its heart. Utilizing guerrilla film making as its medium for storytelling, the often uncontrollable environment finds a delicate balance between film and documentary, giving the impression that the events in the film are actually happening. But at the end of the day, despite all the “misogyny” that is contained within the film, Project X has a big heart, and makes a point to let us know that even though on the exterior, characters like Costa are douches and asses, they’re just kids who love their best friends just as much as anyone. And in the final shot, when Thomas looks at Dax and signals for him to cut the footage, we know, just as much as he does, that we’ve reached the end of a journey. No matter what the future brings, Thomas had that one night. And it was a night that he’ll never forget.

4/5 Bears

Grizzly Review: Chronicle

The genre of superhero movies is one of my favorites, as is the sub-genre known as the “found footage” genre, so I think you can estimate my level of excitement when I saw the brilliantly edited trailer for the new film, Chronicle. Now, there’s quite a bit of hate for the found footage genre, and I can definitely see why. The shaky camera, the sometimes phony looking thrills, and the overall bad reputation the genre has had since its inception all sway the public opinion far enough so that found footage films border on hated.

Both 2010 and 2011 brought us seventeen found footage films each year, and in 2012, the number is up to about ten. I think I can fairly assume that found footage is here to stay, at least for a couple more years. The Paranormal Activity films have grossed an insane amount of money with minuscule budgets, and other horror films like the Spanish found footage film REC, as well as films like Cannibal Holocaust, Man Bites Dog, The Blair Witch Project, August Underground, and the original Paranormal Activity are considered to be modern horror classics. On a side note, my favorite found footage movie is definitely Trash Humpers, and I definitely recommend that to any film buffs who haven’t already seen it.

Getting back on track (I could talk about found footage for days), 2012 probably has the biggest variety of found footage films. Chronicle is a superhero movie, Paranormal Activity 4 is a horror movie, Area 51Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli’s follow up film, is a sci fi flick, and Project X, is the first of its kind as a comedy found footage flick. Now, you nitpicky bastards out there are going to cite The Virginity Hit, right? I honestly don’t think that counts, as there are some regular steady cam shots in the film, which is essentially breaking form. With that criteria in mind you could call American Beauty a found footage film.

Chronicle follows three teenagers who probably wouldn’t have become so close if not for a hole in the ground. Emotionally damaged teenager, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) decides to purchase a camera to record everything in his life, but mostly the drunkenly violent tendencies of his alcoholic father. After sustaining an injury while working as a fireman, Richard Detmer (Michael Kelly), spends his time at home taking care of Andrew’s sickly mother, Karen (Bo Petersen).

Andrew’s cousin, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) convinces Andrew to go to a rave one day. Andrew insists that he bring his camera, and begins to film the party. There, he meets Casey Letter (Ashley Hinshaw), one of his classmates who is also filming the party for her blog. The two meet briefly, but it’s obvious that Matt is the one interested in her, not Andrew. He walks away and begins filming more, and after a physical altercation with a man who thinks Andrew is filming his girlfriend, he resigns to the parking lot, accepting the fact that he really just can’t make any friends. Suddenly, Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), who is front runner for class president, approaches Andrew and asks him to come film something that he and Matt found.

Now I don’t want to spoil what the object in the ditch is, because it’s pretty freaking cool. What I can say, though, is that the boys develop superpowers, and begin to flex what they theorize is a mental muscle. In short, it’s telekinesis, and it makes them virtually indestructible. But instead of using the powers for the good of mankind, they just decide to do cool and often stupid things with them, but as they get stronger, complications in their relationship arise, causing Andrew to inherit rage that is sometimes beyond his control.

Chronicle is equal parts origin flick, accurate high school comedy, and harrowing family drama. With an excellent script and equally impressive direction by first time filmmakers Max Landis and Josh Trank, Chronicle manages to be a low budget superhero movie that actually works, and goddamn does it work well. Everything from the performances to the pitch perfect dialogue rings absolutely true despite an odd and rather rehashed plot line. The depiction of a modern high school is near perfect, capturing both the angst and a glimpse of popularity all through the eyes of a troubled teen.

Make no mistake of Chronicle‘s motives, because the film isn’t here to tell a story of good and evil. It’s here to tell a story of good intentions through a troubled mind, and the abuse of power in a time of desperation, as well as the importance of family in a difficult and confusing situation. The central performance by Dane DeHaan is absolutely fantastic. Only 24 years old, you may have seen DeHaan on the HBO series In Treatment, but if you haven’t, you’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future. With four 2012 movies on his roster, including my most anticipated film of the year, Wettest Country, DeHaan is going to be getting both A-list billing and treatment in literally no time.

In a world of YouTubers, Microbloggers, iPod, iPad, iPhone, video cameras, camera phones, and even basic things like surveillance cameras are all integral parts of today’s society. We feel an inherent need to document everything, and I think that Chronicle accurately portrays that. It never breaks form, but instead uses various forms of handheld cameras to get its point across, and with a surprising amount of finesse, too. Director Josh Trank could have just switched to regular film and filmed the climactic action sequences that way, but he decided to not take the easy way out and stick with the method he began the film with, and it really does actually pay off.

On a budget of only $15 million dollars, Chronicle does more with the little it’s given than most other similar movies, ($200 million for Green Lantern?! What is that?!), and the CGI is near perfect in my opinion. Walking in I expected an entertaining teen superhero flick but I walked out realizing that I’d just viewed not just a movie, but a film that has meaning and isn’t meant to just be. I recommend Chronicle to anyone who really just likes movies. It’s got the wide spread appeal of a blockbuster, with the mind of an indie flick, a perfect marriage if you ask me.

4.5/5 Bears