Apologies for using a Fox News Latino link, I found it funny that site even exists.
I look forward to this. There is a great tradition of Mexican horror from the 30’s on in films, and the last decade has seen some great Spanish Language horror films as well. While this is surely a business decision, this may be the first time, that I am aware of, that Hollywood has made such a move and this could be another example of Horror films being years ahead of the rest of Hollywood.
I saw this in the PS3 store this week. As far as I know it’s only on Digital downloads (PS3, xbox, itunes). It’s 5 hours long, but from what I’ve heard, and as Dread Central talks about in its 5 knife review, this may be the best version of the underwhelming 3rd film, and the excellent first 2 films. I’ll have to check this out.
I had the same questions.
But of more note is the fact that 90% of the first trailer’s footage did not end up in the finished film, including the footage of the fire, or they used alternate takes, like the Bloody Mary scene.
The question here is that staging a house fire would probably have been one of the more expensive effects in the film, so it seems strange they’d not end up using it.
* * 1/2
Dir. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
The Found Footage genre is far too often dismissed even by Horror buffs. While it may seem a novelty, a fun house trick, isn’t that what makes horror enjoyable? And beyond enjoyment, the found footage film presupposes the traditions and anxieties which not only form the foundation of what became horror, but also the proto-horror works (Maturin’s Melmoth… may be the first found-footage work and Lovecraft basically wrote found-footage short stories, and a great number of early horror stories present themselves as fact). What one sees in the found footage film, a type of film almost exclusively utilized in fantastic genres, is the purposeful limiting of what one sees. It recognizes the impossibilities of capture, and to a greater extent realization, translation, or adaptation, either of experience or the supernatural. However, central to this recognition is the affirmation that there exists a supernatural to be encountered. It is interesting that while The Blair Witch Project popularized this subgenre, there were very few found footage horror films immediately afterword. Even the film’s sequel was a classical narrative film. It wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that we now have at least 4 or 5 found footage horror films a year. I won’t go into why this happened, at least socio-politically, but practically, it was due in part to the high yield investment which was the first Paranormal Activity film.
It may also be seen as a return to analog in the face of the over-digitization of the genre. It could be that CGI horror reached its nadir with a film like I am Legend, from 2007, which is a great film ruined by horrid CGI. While it may be counter-intuitive, these found footage films, almost exclusively shot on prosumer digital cameras, act as a counter-balance to digital manipulated, big budget films.
The important intervention of Paranormal Activity was the use of the static shot. It made dread popular in horror again. Blair Witch was a film of anxiety in its shaky camera work and formal incoherence. PA is a work of dread because it used the static shot, one with formal stability, and forced its audience to experience the dread of infinitude; that there is a near infinite number of ways for the static shot to be disrupted, while the shaky-cam is a reactive POV. In addition, the static shot, not being as reactive as the POV shot, places a privileged knowledge onto the audience, whereas the POV shot finds its power in limiting the coherence of the information given to the audience.
The sequel took the static shot further by implementing a pattern of shot edits that make up a rhythm of dread throughout the film. It also cleverly incorporated itself into the first film, making a franchise film that was concerned with story as much as it was with recapturing the success of the first film.
PA 3, directed by Catfish (a must see, if you haven’t) directors Joost and Schulman, isn’t as successful. Aside from a short prologue which does some clumsy retcon, this film doesn’t, like the second film, propel the mythology forward while revisiting that mythology’s roots.
The main aspect that Joost and Schulman add, as documentary filmmakers, is an added level of self-reflexivity. This allows the series to keep some of its humor, but the film almost seems too fascinated with itself as technological product. This makes for interesting theorizing but not so much for a great film. We see the reflections of the cameras, and perhaps the most diabolical wrinkle in this film is the invention of the oscillating camera; related to this the film places a heavy emphasis on the extreme left of its frame.
Catfish was both a documentary but also a thriller, and had its own horror-like anxieties of the manipulation of identity by digital means. It would make sense, then, that they would want to make this film, and want to place it in a VHS context, even though the film is, sadly, not shot on VHS. In Catfish they set out to try and document an elusive identity behind digital images of a body; here they have their protagonist set out to capture an elusive physical body on digital images.
Aside from my theorizing, most of you probably just want to know is the film watchable and is it scary. Yes. I think the film’s weakness is that it has too much in it, by way of scares. The last 15 minutes, which have been getting a lot of buzz, have more going on in them to try and scare you than the first two films combined. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an audience react so much as the one I watched this film with. As a sensory exercise, while it can be tiring, it does what it wanted to do.
But I don’t think the film was as effective. The problem goes back to the difference between horror, anxiety, and dread. For me, I’m most concerned with dread, and this is what draws me to horror films. It is very much a term laden with existential meaning and religious aspirations. Horror is, for me, the often concrete realization of the destruction of something specific: the body, society, the family unit, etc. Anxiety is more psychological, where the threat is generalized and placed in a slippery reality or disintegrating reality. Whereas horror is more physical, anxiety psychological, dread is more philosophical or theological. As Cynthia Freeland wrote in her article on “Horror and Art-Dread:” “Dread, unlike anxiety involves an anticipated encounter with something ‘profound’-something particularly powerful, grave, and inexorable.” (in Prince, The Horror Film, 192. Freeland goes on to point out that it’s dread that is the word used in the Old Testament to describe man’s encounters to the divine, and that for existentialists like Kierkegaard and Heidegger, it’s a dual realization of a) our imminent deaths and b) our infinite potential because of our freedom to act.
The first two films ended in dread. Each time the paternal figure of the film attempts to negotiate their death through their own agency and in both there are consequences. In this film, the fate of the protagonists is far more controlled (or contrived?) and their agency is essentially non-existent. This makes it easier to scare the audience as feeling unable to do anything is an easy way to generate anxiety, but it also made the film far less interesting to me.
It’s also a problem of predictability. The film’s final turn is telegraphed from the introductions at the start of the film, and anyone who’s seen at least a few horror films knows what’s coming. I was doubly disappointed because this seemed to have mined the finale from a better found-footage film from last year, The Last Exorcism. And also an inevitability; that there will be a fourth film, so this film really can’t do too much to do anything which might disrupt the formula (although I think the second film was a great model for any horror franchise in how to do both). In fact, the film was made so quickly that 90% of the footage from the teaser trailer is not in the final film, and I couldn’t find a promotional image which was taken from the film either (the one I have here isn’t from the film). Which probably means, as I write this somebody is already working on the next installment, and even though this was something of a disappointment, mostly intellectually, I’ll see that one too.
The film failed the “night light test.” The first film was only the second time in my adult life I was unable to sleep because of a film. The second film shook me enough to disrupt my sleep. This one didn’t. I think in part because of the specificity of the threat at the end of the film. The first two films was watching yourself sleep, essentially. This one is watching someone else’s trauma.
Here’s a list of other texts this film borrows specific “set pieces” from:
-Pulse (1988) a HIGHLY underrated film. It’s not a great film, but fun and ahead of its time.
-“Inside the closet” a Tom Savini directed episode of Tales from the Darkside.
-I already mentioned The Last Exorcism.
This is exactly what I was hoping for! Seriously, this is how you operate a horror franchise.
Movie Trailer of the Day: Directed by Catfish masterminds Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the third installment in the found footage horror film series Paranormal Activity features more of the same, but will be “scarier” according to producer Oren Peli.
So, if that sounds like something you’re into, PA3 comes out October 21.