Thursday, 29 October 2009

Halloween Special: Paranormal Activity & 9 - Reviews


Halloween is upon us once again, where the kids are out trick or treating, the antisocial are exploding illegally obtained fireworks and as sure as there being a huge boost in pumpkin sales: there is no doubt another shit sequel to another tired, worn out horror franchise circulating around the multiplexes. Thankfully this year I decided to steer clear of that whole affair and opt for a film that is actually scary.

It's a shame that UK audiences won't have a chance to witness this film over the Halloween weekend in the cinema. Despite sounding like a potential subtitle to a future Ghostbusters movie, Paranormal Activity is the recent 'big thing' to comes from the USA filmed in a similar vein to The Blair Witch Project. It tells the tale of a couple haunted by an unusual presence in their own home. The boyfriend Micah dismisses the bumps in the night and decides to document the footage to prove a point to his superstitious girlfriend Katie. As you can imagine events start to unfold and all is not what it seems.

In keeping with my own views on the supernatural, I approached this film with much scepticism. The first hour didn't help the film's case, coming across like an average episode of TV's Most Haunted. However, I must commend d├ębut director Oren Peli for creating such a well crafted story of agonising suspense from beginning to end. There is practically none, if any, special effects used, with the horror being entirely psychological with very little use of a backing soundtrack, very similar effectiveness to the 1963 version of The Haunting. From a story point of view it was interesting seeing the couple's relationship become increasingly more strained as the film's events developed building up to an extremely tense and shocking final few moments.

One of Paranormal Activity's stand out qualities is that it manages to create this atmosphere with virtually no blood/gore nor cheap jumpy shock tactics. Almost like Hitchcock in its execution. For a budget of $15,000 it was one of the most effective Indie films I have seen in quite some time.

Final Thoughts
Forget Saw 6 or Halloween 2, if you want a film that will genuinely disturb you over the coming season, Paranormal Activity is by far the essential option. 'Scariest film of all time' (as the poster suggests...) is a bit of a stretch but it's got a solid argument for the title of 'Most Disturbing Film of 2009' at the very least. Though the first 30 minutes are arguably quite slow moving the film is still unnerving, suspenseful and yes, I would say for a moment it was even quite scary. Paranormal Activity is a must for all fans of the horror genre. For desired effect, watch alone with all the lights turned out.

7.5/10

See this if you like...
The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, The Last Broadcast and Most Haunted (no seriously...).

Paranormal Activity hits UK cinemas 27th November 2009.

The film is also available on DVD through low level outlets on the web since it has been out since 2007.



The second film under the microscope this Halloween season, from theFILMblog, is yet another computer animated feature film in the form of 9 by director Shane Acker. Based on the Oscar nominated short of the same name, 9 is the tale of nine robotic puppets brought to life during an apocalyptic war between man and machine. Surviving the titanic clash it is up to them to preserve the essence of mankind now the human race is extinct.

Unlike the other animated films I have reviewed this month, 9 takes on a much darker tone to any animated film I have seen in quite some time, almost coming across as a spin-off plot to the Terminator series with some unsettling imagery of dead human bodies rotting within the post-apocalyptic landscape. Though only on the film in a producing capacity, Tim Burton's influence and presence on the feature is evident from beginning to end, especially in the character designs of the protagonists and antagonists. The demonic machines looking as if they were lifted straight from one of Burton's collaborations with Henry Selick.

One of the highlights of the film was the very creditable talents of the voice cast, featuring the likes of Elijah Wood (channelling his inner Frodo Baggins of naivety and misguided hope), Jennifer Connelly and Christopher Plummer. Combined with some incredibly original and provocative landscapes, 9 makes for some interesting viewing. When in comparison however, it never quite reaches the incredible heights of its rivals at Pixar or Dreamworks. Which is a shame because it had the chance to do something daring and shocking with the medium but instead bails out during the closing moments in favour of a poorly envisioned happy ending.

The film also fails in the 'moral message' it is trying to get across, using World War II-esque imagery of how mankind was before the fall. These images of a evil dictator using a super-machine to rule all of earth with an iron fist might of had some clout during the Cold War period, but in an age where mankind's biggest threats are global terrorism and the persistent warnings of climate change, it feels as though the message conveyed in 9 is about 30 years too late.

Final Thoughts
Despite some wildly provocative imagery, devastatingly bleak set designs along and a competant shift put in by the voice cast, 9 fails to deliver with some clumsy story-telling, and painfully predictable plot devices. It could have been dark, apocalyptic and genuinely disturbing but at the end of time when there is nothing left besides the cockroaches and a couple of rag dolls, you're left wondering "was that it?".

6/10

See this if you liked...
Terminator, The Matrix...Rosie and Jim?

9 is in cinemas everywhere now

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