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Paranormal Activity 3 – Review

Paranormal Activity 3 – Review

Oct 24, 2011

reviewed by Danny
directed by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, 2011

I was very excited last year when previews revealed that the second Paranormal Activity was going to stick to the “found footage” formula of the first film and not take The Blair Witch Project approach of attempting to shift the franchise onto a more traditional horror film path.  And, though I didn’t find the film to be as intensely jump-inducing as the first film, Paranormal Activity 2 was a solid follow up which was a big hit with audiences if not with critics.  The huge box-office take meant we were nearly guaranteed a part three that stuck to the formula, and it has arrived, only two years after the nationwide release of the first film (but four years after the original began making the festival circuit in an effort to find a distributor).  Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel to the first two films that revolves around the two sisters from Paranormal Activity 2.  I was interested to see what the writers came up with to explain the events of the previous films, but my fear going in was simply that the “been there, done that” feeling would be overwhelming.  I need not have worried.  Handing over the directing reins to Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, directors of the intriguing “documentary” Catfish proves to be a good move as they manage to inject a fair amount of fresh ideas and energy into franchise.

Setting the film in the 1980s means we leave behind the multi-camera, full house (and even poolside) coverage of the second film.  Instead, Dennis, a wedding videographer, is forced to choose just a few locations to investigate the noises and strange happenings in the home he shares with his girlfriend, Julie, and her two young daughters, Katie and Kristi—the sisters from the second film who make a brief appearance early on to tie the event of that film to this one.  The film attempts to use Dennis’s obsession with finding out what is going on combined with his voyeuristic impulses to explain why there is always a camera filming, even in the most mundane moments.  It doesn’t work entirely.  There are times when you can’t help but wonder why he has the camera out.

The big innovation for the film comes from Dennis mounting one of his huge 80s video on the base of an oscillating fan.  The back and forth motion of the camera gives us a break from playing creepy Where’s Waldo with the images from the static camera, and there is simply a great tension waiting for the camera to swing back to something that was only hinted at on the previous pass.  This device is put to best use in a tense scene with a horror film staple, the babysitter.

There are more scares and jumpy moments here than in the first two films but the director’s manage to work them in without compromising the tension that comes with each jump cut to another camera position.  I watched this with a packed crowd and, if the screams and laughter were any indication, the formula is still working.

I’m happy to say that if you liked the first two films, you are almost guaranteed to like this one.  Even if you weren’t quite sold on those films, the improvements here might make Paranormal Activity 3 at least worth a rental.

Hobo With A Shotgun – Review

Hobo With A Shotgun – Review

Oct 6, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Jason Eisener, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun is a Canadian horror exploitation film directed by Jason Eisener.  The film was originally a fake trailer to promote the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse, but due to popularity was transformed into a full-length picture.  The movie stars film legend Rutger Hauer.

The central theme of Hobo With A Shotgun is anything but original.  A small town called “Hope Town” is run by a greedy, sadistic villian known as “The Drake” and his two severely demented sons, Ivan and Slick.  I must admit to chuckling when I realized I had just partly described the plot to Roadhouse.  Anyway, the film opens with Slick and Ivan brutally killing The Drake’s brother to set an example to the town folk, who idly stand by and watch the carnage as if they were zombies who could care less.  After the decapitation of the brother, the towns people just slowly go back to their lives as if nothing had ever happened.  The hobo finally has enough when he witnesses Slick attempt to sexually assault and kill a girl in an arcade, prompting him to attack Slick and save the girl.  The hobo drags Slick to the local police station and demands to speak with the Sheriff.  Unfortunately, the Sheriff and the police are corrupt and eating out of The Drake’s hand.  The hobo is knifed and thrown out on the street.

Soon, the hobo meets up with Abby, the girl he saved from the hands of Slick, and she nurses him back to health in her small apartment.  The two become friends and decide to start a new life in a different city.  The can’t leave town fast enough, however, because Ivan and Slick show up to finish off Abby.  They severely injure Abby, but the hobo is able to save her and kill Slick.  What remains is a final showdown between the hobo, The Drake, and the town people who decide they have finally had enough.  The hobo sacrifices his life so that no one else will get hurt, taking down The Drake with him.  There is hope in Hope Town.

Hobo With A Shotgun has a very positive reputation among horror fans.  After hearing so much praise for the film, I was eager to experience this “instant classic” for myself.  I must admit to being somewhat disappointed.  The exploitation genre is a difficult one to master.  One the one hand, one must recognize that making broad and over-the-top statements about the underlying issue is a necessary component of exploitation.  On the other hand, a successful exploitation film understands how those sensationalist images adds to the story being presented and doesn’t turn on itself by simply seeking to shock the audience without any ongoing connection.  Anyone can put together a bunch of violent, gross scenes.  It takes talent to make them tell a compelling story.   At the end of the day, Hobo With A Shotgun is just too much violence with not enough story.  The story isn’t meant to be believable, but still yet, this story is really, really unbelievable.  There are still fun moments and interesting deaths, but overall I found myself somewhat bored with the “how crazy can we go” violence and mayhem.  Probably worth a viewing just for Hauer’s performance, but doesn’t live up to the hype.