XIPHOS FINDS SOME FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS
Apparently I’ve also found a love for alliteration which is just one thin hair above the lowest form of primate communication, the high five. Saturday, due to some patchy weather, I went to the movies and since we are coming up on Halloween I decided to go see Sinister and Paranormal Activity 4 because both use the same conceit, the found footage angle and I wanted to see which flick was better able to use that lame story telling device. I am happy to report that one movie used the found footage angle very well probably the best use in a film I have seen to date. The other movie was a Paranormal Activity movie so……
I am going to avoid spoilers here and be very general in my approach to this review because I think the movie works better not knowing much about it . Even though the trailer kind of sort of shows the bad guy it really doesn’t and the fun in the movie is traveling down the road of discovery through all the red herrings and twists and turns. I have to give credit to writer/director Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill who was Massawyrm at Fattown. I can usually figure these kinds of flicks out fairly quickly but this time they misdirected me enough that my two theories on how the movie was going to end were completely and totally wrong. Good job gents, you wrote a tight taut film full of scares from the atmosphere created by good writing that was also fairly smart and not based on characters doing dumb stuff to further the story which is the Paranormal Activity MO.
The story is this: True crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) who had great success with his first book, has fallen on hard times. His last two books were not well received and his theories of the crime and cops were very wrong. Because of that, Oswalt and his family are looked on as pariahs by local LEOs and citizens in the towns where he investigate his books. Also because of poor sales and not being able to sell their old house they are near broke. With all that weighing him down, Oswalt decides to take on the story of a family that was murdered in their backyard via lynching. Oswalt sees this story as his redemption and legacy. More importantly it’s his ticket to fame, fortune and movie deals so Oswalt jumps into the story with both feet and his trusty bottle of whiskey. Oh yeah I forgot, he’s a drinker and he moved his family into the murder house. All that is a recipe for disaster and it is.
While checking out the attic Oswalt stumbles across a box labeled “Home Movies” full of Super 8 films marked with innocuous titles like Family Hanging Around ‘11 and BBQ ‘78. So this being a horror flick Oswalt watches the movies and sees that they are filmed murders of families going back to the late 60’s including the one at the house he’s living in. From there things go south for the Oswalt family. Oswalt himself is the target of weird shenanigans as he unravels the mystery of the murders and who might be behind them. The story becomes one of obsession and not doing the right thing until way too late.
The movie itself is not very violent considering the story nor is it torture porn. It is however very creepy and very atmospheric and a throwback to older style horror films like The Omen, The Exorcist and the first Alien wherein the horror takes place in your head and not so much on the screen. The use of Super 8 film to tell the story was a great conceit. I thought it added to the story because it combined old style tech with newer tech in order to dissect the movies. Like some sort of Kennedy assassination Zapruder film “researcher” weirdo, Oswalt transfers all the movies and others clues to his Apple laptop.
Sinister was perhaps the best work I have seen from Ethan Hawke. He was on screen for virtually the entire movie and he turned in a nuanced performance. Hawke as Oswalt was able to create a multi faceted character that felt real. Oswalt is a study in contradictions. On one hand he is a good father who wants to provide a nice life for his family. On the other hand he is a rummy with a titanic ego and a desire to be famous again. His first 15 minutes were not enough to satisfy his narcissism. Hawke was able to translate the top notch writing from the page to the screen and then he was able to really show the deterioration of Oswalt without crossing the line into camp. Great work Mr. Hawke.
I would also like to praise writer/director Scott Derrickson. He was able to stage one of the more effective and creepy scenes I’ve watched in a modern horror flick in a long, long time. The scene of Oswalt prowling around the house at night with a baseball bat and things going on around him was staged so effectively and so creepily that I actually sat up and really took notice of what was going on and that hasn’t happened to me in a horror movie in a really long time. Also I like the last shot of the film. Very good idea and title.
I recommend this movie without any reservations whatsoever. One last observation, the scariest thing in the movie is Ethan Hawke’s wardrobe. What kind of man wears an oversized cable knit sweater AND Wallabees? I shudder at the memory.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4
Not a big fan of the series. I thought the first one was OK and since it had a budget of like $150.00 way overachieved but it had a lot of problems. The second one stunk outright like a can of tuna put in the vents of your buddy’s car. It had 10 minutes of pool footage and automatic cleaner FFS! Then the lamest demon in movie history, Toby, would rip it out of the pool. Ooooh scary. Though I will stipulate that the second one had probably the best single scene in the series, the one in the kitchen with the baby sitter. The third installment was overall the best one. The fourth one in most ways is the weakest because the writers played it way too safe and predictable but they did pull off one decent switcheroo so atta’ boy for that one.
Before I get into the meat of the review I have to issue a spoiler warning. I will be discussing specific plot points as lame as they are so if you don’t want to know don’t read further.
Ok so the fourth installment takes place about five years after demon Katie kills her sister, takes Hunter and disappears. We move from California to Henderson, Nevada (even though wherever they shot the flick looks nothing like Nevada.)
A quick character intro at a soccer game/picnic happens and we meet hot, blond, blue eyed, jail bait, virgin (who has Bugs Bunny teeth), NAZI, wet dream and star of the movie Alex (Kathryn Newton), brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) who looks to be about 8 years old, smoking hot MILFY/JUGGY Mom (Alexondra Lee) and semi-absentee Dad (Stephen Dunham). We also get a quick shot of the weird neighbor kid Robbie (Brady Allen) watching the soccer game.
Later on we meet Alex’s friend/wannabe defiler/semi jerk off pervo stalker Ben (Matt Shievley). Some boring talking stuff happens then Alex and Ben go out to the tree fort and find Weirdo Robbie in it at 2200hrs so Alex takes him home. A few hours later a bunch of activity in the form of an ambulance and cops happen at Robbie’s house and we learn his mom is sick and will be in the hospital for a few days so of course Robbie goes to live with neighbors he doesn’t know A DAY LATER. This is the first of so, so many stupid plot points to further the story. Weird crap we’ve seen before starts happening at Alex’s house so she gets stalker boy to turn on all the computers as surveillance devices and stashes a camcorder in the den for the same reason then proceeds TO NOT CHECK THEM LIKE THE DUMMIES THEY ARE FOR THE REST OF THE MOVIE. If they had spent as little as 30 seconds reviewing the footage after the second night things could have been very different but the weak writing and plotting is reliant on characters doing something smart and then not following through on it. Way too much dumb shit happens over and over and over and over again. Then Katie shows up as neighbor Mom seemingly all normal. Then Demon Tobey starts in on Wyatt who we learn is actually adopted and is really Hunter. Robbie was a red herring and then they just abandon him. We never see him again after Katie shows up. I guess they killed him. Also the coven shows up for like 30 seconds so Indiana Alex a 15 year old girl armed with a camcorder goes to investigate all by herself AT NIGHT, yeah that’s some good writing. Anyway, more lameness ensues then Demon Katie kills Mom, Ben and Dad. Alex runs off into the night ARMED WITH HER TRUSTY CAMCORDER TO RECORD IT ALL and goes into Robbie’s house. Demon face Katie tries to kill her, she goes out the window, then something stupid happens and a big plot point is revealed and the movie ends. My write up sounds better than it actually is.
This movie would have seriously benefited from somebody telling the writers to stop being paste eating mongoloids and also to insert a hardcore lezbo scene between demon face and JUGGY Mom. As it stands the writing is trite, boring, predictable and awful. The actors try with what they have but I suspect they know it’s garbage. It’s a bad movie and the found footage adds nothing to the story unlike Sinister which was integral to telling that story.
To wrap this up, skip the movie it isn’t good. Further, in a movie that has demonic possession, witches and what not the most fantastical and most unbelievable part of the movie was an upper middle class white suburban Mom doing her own cooking and cleaning and not whining about being “overworked” and needing a Mex maid to help. I can buy into (which I can’t really) demons long before I would believe that from an over privileged suburban broad with a massive sense of entitlement and an obnoxious attitude towards her hard working husband who’s largess allows her to stay at home and not work.
This is an interesting little nugget of info, the mother and father were actually married in real life and he died last month of a heart attack. So I guess Toby killed him in real life. Hey I started my very first dumb fuck conspiracy theory!
BONUS: QUICK REVIEWS OF SOME ATTACHED TRAILERS FROM BOTH MOVIES
Django: This thing looks like fried shit on a stick. Jesus Cokey is a talentless fucking hack. Save it Conti, we will have to agree to disagree about the giant melon head.
Hansel and Gretel: Can somebody explain to me how the main characters as kids looked to be about the same age yet as adults there is at least a 15 year difference in their age and like a foot in height, she being taller? Oh yeah the trailer reeked of Van Helsing awfulness.
Broken City: Marky Mark and Bud White facing off in a police/political thriller? Color me intrigued until I saw the January dump date. Still it might be worth a rental both actors looked to be in scenery eating mode.
Texas Chainsaw 3D: Jesus titty fucking christ this thing again? Is there anything left to that horse’s corpse?
Jack Reacher: Trainwreck of epic proportions. They also did what I figured they would do, turn Reacher into a Karate man. I can’t wait to see this steaming pile of crap and I don’t even particularly like the source material and I was offended by the trailer laziness.
Carrie: Hiring smoking hot Jailbait Chloë Moretz was a mistake. Sissy Spacek was weird looking and fit the role. Moretz would be a popular girl. It’s the way of high school since she is a POA.
Chasing Mavericks: Come on, a movie about surfing based on a true story and it involves somebody I’ve never met, Jay Moriarty, but whose father I have? I’m in. It’s probably the one movie I’m looking forward to. The surfing scenes look kick ass.