Okay: if you didn't like Paranormal Activity, either of the first two, you should really not start with this one. Part of the fun of this now-series is that it rewards you for close and multiple viewings. 2 was set about two months before 1 (and one night later; long story); this one's set in 1988 and shows Katie and Kristi as children living with their mom, Julie, and their mom's boyfriend, Dennis, who videotapes weddings for a living. Dennis is basically Micah if Micah was 30 percent less asshole. (Not that Micah was actually an asshole, but dude: DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN DEMON.) Dennis also has an assistant named Randy who, in the tradition of sidekicks named Randy with video cameras, is pretty goddamned great.

Kristi also has an imaginary friend she calls Tobey. Tobey likes Kristi; Tobey seems less fond of Julie and Dennis. Tobey seems a lot less fond of Katie. Did I mention there's a creepy-ass child-sized closet in Katie and Kristi's room? Or that Kristi calls that Tobey's room? Yeah. That's not good.

A couple things:

* Grandma Lois is an asshole.

No, seriously. You just think she's a disapproving old lady--"Remember how you wanted a big family, Julie? You always used to talk about wanting a son" and not being thrilled she's living with her boyfriend--and them BAM! evil witches or Satanists or whatever, who seems totally unconcerned that a demon just killed her daughter (and her daughter's boyfriend, but he's almost more collateral damage, to her). We last see her taking the kids upstairs, saying "Let's get ready", and there's a glimpse of a fire going in the backyard.

So I've learned two things now: teenagers are evil (Eden Lake) and so are grandparents (this movie).

* I love Randy. I love Randy a lot. I want Randy to grow up, marry Ali (from PA 2), and fight demons or some shit. Seriously! That is some Sparrow-and-Nightengale nonsense, right there! He says "holy fuck" (repeatedly) when he sees what Dennis has captured on tape, and bolts when he and Katie get menaced--and you know, when Tobey claws him down the chest. This is because Randy is the smartest person in the movie.

* If Tobey's the same thing we saw in 1 and 2, he was a lot more malevolent this time around. He flings people around with no warning whatsoever and, in what I found to be the creepiest part, picked Katie up by her hair. Because, you know, demons are assholes.

* Ten bucks says Kristi's promise ("I'll do it") was either to get Julie and Dennis to Grandma's house--or, more likely IMO, to have Hunter in the first place. Which makes Julie disposable. Demons can be pretty patient.

* How fucked up is it that things don't go totally to hell until they get to Grandma's house?

* Looking back on it, the 80s were extremely creepy. A lot of that could have been the VHS feel of the thing, but seriously, the homemade pan-and-scan? The thick carpeting on everything? Dennis' "studio" being most of the garage and a bunch of ancient editing decks and VCRs? I was having flashbacks.

* Holy crap the little "ghost" behind Lisa the babysitter AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH NOT COOL.

* A bunch of stuff from the trailers aren't in the movie: Kristi's creepy little smile, Julie getting flung backwards, Katie and Kristi playing Bloody Mary. (To be fair, Katie does play Bloody Mary, but it's with Randy and you don't see a shadow in the room.) I don't know how I feel about this; it's really misleading and weird, and it leaves me looking for things that never show up. (2 did the same thing, sort of, with the shot of Abby the dog barking at something we can't see, with Hunter asleep in his crib--and Hunter's reflection standing up. It's the cover image for the DVD, and it's not in the movie.)

In terms of misleading trailers, I think FD5 did a really good job: everything we saw actually happened, but not in a way that had anything to do with how people actually died.

* Yeah! Let's play Bloody Mary in a house that may or may not be haunted! That's like leaving out a ouija board or taunting a demon and calling it a pussy, Micah. God, what, are you guys from Mystic Falls originally? STOP IT. NO. NO MORE TEMPTING DOOM.

* Ten bucks also says Grandma and her crew (I'm not calling them a coven) put Dennis and Julie's bodies back in their house and burned it down.

* Katie and Kristi basically say in 2 that they don't remember a lot about it except that they were both scared all the time. Katie also says that if Kristi doesn't ignore what's going on and leave it alone, she's going to end up "just like Mom". Which...makes me think Grandma told them stories about what happened to Mom, because I'm pretty sure I just saw Tobey huck Mom down a flight of stairs and the girls step over her lifeless body with Grandma.

The trailer claims that "the last 15 minutes will mess you up for life": no. Not true. It went in a slightly different way than I thought it was going to, but not necessarily in a bad way; watching it as a marathon with the first 2 might help on that front. It's still more than enough to make sure that if they make a fourth installment, I'll be there.
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