As I’m writing this, the newest Paranormal Activity movie came out yesterday. It marks the fifth film in the series, and the first that moves away from that central family (for the most part). I like the Paranormal Activity movies but felt that the Sunday “Bad” Movie posts could use something to celebrate the fifth in the series. What would that something be? I went to one of my favourite sources of bad movies to find out.
The Paranormal Entity series, as Wikipedia classifies the movies, are four Asylum produced movies. The first is a direct rip-off of Paranormal Activity. The other three are found footage movies about different groups of people experiencing different paranormal beings in different locations. The movies are completely unrelated outside of the fact that they are produced by The Asylum, they are found footage, and Wikipedia classifies them as a series.
Before I get into the individual movies, let me talk about the series in general. Like many people say about the Star Trek movies, the evens are better than the odds. At least, I find the second and fourth Paranormal Entity movies to be the better ones. There are no characters or actors that overlap between the movies. They all stand on their own as separate works. Lastly, there was a movie released in November 2013 called The Bell Witch Haunting, which might be in the series. I do not have any confirmation as of yet that it is the fifth installment in the Paranormal Entity series, but from the trailer, it seems like it could easily fit in there.
Now it’s time for me to get into the individual movies.
This 2009 Shane van Dyke written and directed film tells the story of a mother and her two children, a brother and sister, as they deal with some sort of paranormal force in their house. It’s basically Paranormal Activity, but by The Asylum. The practical effects aren’t interesting and the scares are practically non-existent. I’m a defender of Shane van Dyke’s work with The Asylum. I love Titanic II, I enjoy Transmorphers: Fall of Man, and I find Battledogs to be a lot of fun. Paranormal Entity is not any of that. It feels lifeless and is among my least favourite Asylum produced movies. It’s sad because I always have hope for Shane van Dyke’s output.
8213: Gacy House
In 2010, The Asylum came out with another found footage film. This time, it centered on a group of paranormal investigators going to the site of John Wayne Gacy’s house. Something doesn’t want them there, though, and they suspect that the spirit of Gacy still resides on the premises. If that sounds like a more thought out plot than the first movie (which, to be honest, it probably doesn’t), there is more thought to it. The characters seem more realized than in the previous film. You know them as more than just the mother, the brother, and the sister. They seem like actual people. When things start happening to them, you care. That’s where the real success of the movie is. It has characters that you actually invest in. You want them to survive. It doesn’t really show too much of what happens to people, but what it does show is interesting to watch. This is a vast improvement over Paranormal Entity.
Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes
I have to give a little bit of a backstory on this one. This story has been told numerous times in film. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on the same real life story as this movie. Basically, a girl in Germany named Anneliese Michel was thought to be possessed by a demon. When she died, her parents and some priests were charged with negligence. That’s basically what plays out in the movie, except there is also a camera crew recording what is going on. The practical effects in this movie are solid enough to be effective. I liked that part of the movie but that’s about all that I could find to like. The performances are bad and the characters are even worse. It’s as though director Jude Gerard Prest (I’m assuming he wrote it, but there is no writing credit) read a synopsis of the real events and didn’t think to add any more to the characters. They are all plot devices rather than captivating people, and you don’t care what happens to any of them. It’s a shame seeing as how The Exorcism of Emily Rose was able to cover the same story to a much better effect by creating characters that you enjoy watching as a viewer. This movie isn’t simply bad, it’s depressing to think of what could have been. So little effort was put into it that I can’t help feeling cheated out of an hour and a half of greatness.
100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck
This is my favourite movie of the bunch. Like the second movie in the series, 100 Ghost Street is about a group of paranormal investigators. This time, the investigators are going to a hospital where Richard Speck raped and murdered nurses. At least, I think that’s what they said. Yes, that’s what he did. They lock themselves inside and investigate. What really works about this movie is both the effects and the characters. These characters are the most well-defined of any of the movies. They each had their own personalities, and you could relate to them, even though you’ve never experience what they are going through. The effects were a mixture of practical and computer generated, but it worked for the movie. Sure, it takes you out of the realism a little bit, but it helps to highlight the violence without going over-the-top with it. I appreciated that a lot while watching. All in all, this movie is a major step up for the series and one that I would recommend to people looking for a decent found footage horror flick.
These four movies are not a series in the sense that the story comes together like the Paranormal Activity series they were originally based upon. Instead, the Paranormal Entity series is a thematic anthology series. Every movie is a found footage movie about people fighting against the supernatural. Like any anthology, the different films are of varying qualities. There is some good that came out of the Paranormal Entity series, however. I will always be grateful for that.
There are some notes I would like to make before I am done: