Ever since the first Paranormal Activity movie came out, there was an element that I really liked about it: the fact that it absorbs the viewer into a story that’s told by the camera – I wrote about this a while ago, calling it Diegetic Cinematography – plus, it was a horror movie. The problem is, doesn’t matter how much I want to like Paranormal Activity, I simply can’t. I tried with the first movie, it bored me to death, with less than five minutes of actual cool stuff going on. It should’ve been a short. I admire its budget/box office ratio, very much like Blair Witch Project.
Its concept of how to tell a horror story was something I liked so much that I forced myself to watch all the other movies in the franchise, as they came out. They just got more and more predictable and boring, leaving aside the true horror of its nature, making everything more and more explicit and resorting almost exclusively to jump scares. Yesterday I watched what’s supposed to be the conclusion of the series, “The Ghost Dimension“. You don’t even need to guess what I thought of it. It was one of the worst disappointments ever – I watched it right after Crimson Peak. Individually, Crimson Peak was incredibly boring, but at least had very cool looking effects, even though lacking the whole ‘foreplay’ you expect from horror movies, where most of the time you don’t actually see the ghost – or whatever supernatural creature the movie features. In Crimson Peak you have long shots and close ups of the ghosts, which is cool for some reasons and anti-climatic for some others. The characters are also incredibly stupid and take forever to unravel the plot. Overall, a weak movie, not worth watching again. Compared to Ghost Dimension, though, Crimson Peak is an amazingly well written and shot horror movie.
It feels like in the previous movies they depleted completely all the possibilities of jump scares imaginable and the only way of trying to add any depth to such a flat story (pun intended) was to make it 3D, with jump scares that fly onto your face combined with footage processed to look like old VHS, on a supernatural camera that can “see this other realm”. Well, the image looks like crap, and I admire that, the problem is whenever the spirits appear, they show an incredible amount of detail that isn’t present anywhere else in the shot. It’s like taking a very low-quality photograph and inserting a super sharp and amazing 3D model into it. It just doesn’t match.
My rule of thumb regarding the Paranormal Activity series still applies: watch the trailer and be done with it. 95% of the good scenes are there, as well as the – lack of – story. Save yourself some time and watch a better movie.