Saturday, November 21, 2009

Paranormal Activity: Secretariat's Ghost

It's a chilled November eve in this shadowy land, come closer to the fire friend. I'm pleased to have found this old camp of mine here on the riverbank, and am even more pleased that you have found it as well. Perhaps it was the warm flickering light with promise of hope and comfort in this cold strange land or the enticing aroma of burning wood still damp from the dew of ages, thick with the feeling of familiarity. Whatever it was that drew you here I am sorry to say that this strange land offers nothing comforting nor soothing for a wandering soul. Perhaps you will do better in the next world, or perhaps you're fortunate enough to be one of the few visitors I see here who return home to the living world with all of it's great promises and dreams (and often painful realities). Before you continue along your path whichever it may be, please stop for a visit and a cup of coffee, reheated but still good.

Hmmm there's a lot there that reminds me of a little film I just saw, Paranormal Activity . As I sat in this rather rundown theater with very few other attendees watching this offering I too was drawn in with hope and promise. I do truly love supernatural spook shows, the unseen dead possess a whole other level of ominous threat and untouchable, uncontrollable menace not found elsewhere in the genre. Century old tales of ghostly beings, that shiver that traces the length of your spine when you turn you back on a darkened cellar, the little jump and the quickening pulse when an unsuspected thump in the dark that startles you. Each and every one of these things lends subconscious credibility to ghosts and the supernatural that does not require the suspended disbelief that monsters, vampires, zombies and aliens require of us. At the same time offers much greater internal terror than any slasher, murderer or real world psychotic can muster. This coupled with the rumblings about the internet, and indeed I took to my torn and sagging theatre seat with a degree of hope. And come to think of it as I sat in darkness watching this flickering light projected on the screen before me, much as I sit here now with you at this fire I felt that same sense of familiarity of something I had seen and known before. Oh yes I know what it was, it was that same old first person video footage style of directing that has been inflicted on the horror genre since Blair Witch made its fortune.

If you haven't yet partaken of this cinematic entity, have no fear as I have no intention of releasing any spoilers in this post. Since the inception of Blogue Macabre I have long determined that this is not a home for "regular" movie reviews as there are plenty of others who do a far better job of that than I. But instead lets speak of this film's inclusion in the home video footage sub-genre. I think we can almost certainly label that a sub-genre of its own by now. And perhaps take account of what it is that that sub-genre offers.

Now I'm on record as saying that The Blair Witch Project is the most over rated piece of horror genre crap I've ever tried to choke down, so you can guess that despite my previously stated hopes there was a healthy degree of cynicism in my heart before the screening as well. I did however find that both Romero's foray with Diary of the Dead and Cloverfield both offered creative approaches to this film style and regardless of what you thought of the films themselves, they did prove that this linear low budget film school dropout sub-genre perhaps could have something to offer. Sadly Paranormal Activity I found offered no creative or inspiring use of the home video technique and does nothing do further the sub-genre's plight for respectability. On the upside however the vomit churning shaky cinematography we have come to know is absent from this film as for once the lead character had the sense to invest some dosh in a decent camera with image stabilization and a damned tripod. The director also chose to take a more reasonable approach and actually allowed the camera to be placed in more realistic and inconvenient places and actually be abandoned by the fictitious filmographer which added greatly to the "intended realism" that is the ultimate goal of the genre.
The greatest thing about the home video technique is that it does one thing amazingly well, it gives the writer the latitude to come up with a mere handful of decent scenes with no real cohesion and a complete lack of an ending of any sort, and combine them with an hour of pointless going nowhere "reality" and voila you have a full length motion picture. And again this movie does that surprisingly well in fact that it actually keeps the viewer in the film. The screenplay writers deserve an academy award for this one in fact, as they managed to keep all the meaningless crap for the most part natural, topical, inject an enjoyable degree of self satire, and squeeze in a couple of highly entertaining allusions to boot.

So you're wondering, why in the name of all that was and all that is, did I subtitle Paranormal Activity as Secretariat's Ghost? The answer is quite simple, this film poses the question "When you beat a dead horse, is there some supernatural or otherworldly way that that said horse can actually get up and run?" Like the fun house ride at the local fair, while I found the film entirely predictable, and lacking originality in almost every way somehow I came out of it with a smile on my face.

Pte. G Macabre

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