NOVEMBER 8, 2008
GENRE: HAUNTED HOUSE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (TEST SCREENING)
Why is it that Paranormal Activity, a fake movie made for a couple thousand bucks, straight up feels more real than The Haunting In Connecticut (the only one ever!), which IS based on a true story and has all the resources a studio movie can provide? When the ending of the film came up I was like “oh man that is so fucking lame!” and then I discovered it was supposedly what actually happened. LOL, whoops?
Also, why is this movie coming out in a few months but Paranormal is still MIA?
Anyway, as “based on a true story” haunted house movies go, it’s better than average, thanks to a genuinely interesting backdrop; the oldest son of the family is dying of cancer, and his experimental drug may cause hallucinations. Is he crazy, or is the place genuinely haunted? Once the answer is clear, the movie gets less interesting, but for a while I was engaged with the sort of “both sides of the story” idea, a la Emily Rose (which the lovely woman who sat next to me was a big fan of, and she made me realize it had been way too long since I have seen it. Good flick!). Also, the human drama was far more engaging than say, Amityville’s “I wish they’d call me dad” nonsense. There’s a really great/sad scene where the kid is getting worse, and we get a montage of the family reacting in their own way (mom cries, dad smashes stuff, etc).
Making the scene sadder was a haunting track from Thin Red Line, one of the all-time greatest film scores (which has now been used in TWO test screenings I’ve attended this year). This one also had bits from Dark Knight/Batman Begins, and I think I heard Unbreakable in there somewhere. One thing that always tickles me about test screenings is that the comment card asks you what you thought of the music, which makes no sense because it’s all from other movies and, except for very rare occasions, will be original score when it’s finished. And I was all prepared to make a note of this on the card, but we didn’t get any. For a test screening, this makes no sense. Why are we there if we can’t tell them the best way to reshoot and ruin the movie?
The movie also scored a few metaphorical points with me by putting both Elias Koteas and Martin Donavan in the cast. Both men are great actors who have recently found themselves being the only good thing about really generic action movies (Koteas - Shooter; Donavan - The Sentinel), so to see them in something that’s actually pretty good is nice. They never really share any scenes together, which is a bummer, but oh well.
One flaw of the movie is that it can’t seem to decide whether its PG-13 or R. There’s some occasional gore, and the backstory is a bit on the disturbing side, but there are also a lot of the same sort of generic fake scares one would expect for a movie aimed squarely at 15 year old girls. Like when someone knocks on a door REALLY LOUD for no reason other than to make 1-2 people jump and have the asshole exec next to me beam to his buddy.
Oh yeah, the execs. Had I gotten a comment card, I would have given it a grade lower than it deserved if only to piss off the two gigantic fucking assholes who sat in between me and the lovely Emily Rose fan (they ran out of “VIP seats”). The movie’s a Lionsgate release, so chances are these two were already on my shitlist for something, but they went above and beyond with their douchebag behavior: sending texts, showing each other said texts (not even bothering to put the shit on vibrate to boot), and literally smiling at each other every time a line or scared got the crowd to react. To be fair, any reaction besides the snoring from the guy behind us is definitely an improvement, but even so: shut the fuck up, put your fucking blackberry away, and watch the movie. Or leave. Especially if you’re sitting with the people whose opinions you are there to collect; my enjoyment of the film was altered because of their behavior. Had someone been with me (this was a solo trip) I would have began pointing out the movie’s flaws and logic lapses loudly to him/her so that the execs could hear, but alas, I would have just looked like a crazy person. Which I AM, but I didn’t want the lovely Emily Rose fan to know that.
What say you?