Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The paranormal success of the Paranormal Activity series;how long can it last?

There's a reason for Paranormal Activity 3 being the only major horror film to be released in time for Halloween this year and that is based on financial fear.

The third installment of this low budget series has made 52.6 million in it's opening weekend alone,easily out grossing the previous movie and receiving just as much buzz as the first two chapters of this scare saga.

Clearly,this continuing tale of a family tormented by mysterious forces ,which is chronicled on home video,is cinematic competition that no one in Hollywood wants to take on right now. Critics are expressing doubts about the longevity of these films and that's a legitimate concern,given that the second and third chapters are actually prequels. There's only so back-story you can fill up on before wanting to either move on to something new or leave the table altogether:

What keeps the PA party going here is the combination of subtly built up scares and the raw footage style in which they're presented.

This ground was broken several years ago with the original Blair Witch Project and taken up by others such as the 2010 sleeper film The Last Exorcism and fortunately for the Paranormal Activity fans,that format play well on small screens as well as the big ones.

I got to see Paranormal Activity 2 in theaters last year,taking in a daytime matinee with an audience of one,namely me. As much as I enjoyed the slow yet steady rate of strange occurrences taking place in the film,I didn't think that I would be easily freaked out.

However,when the kitchen scene came up,I did verbally react which was even more nerve wracking since I didn't have any fellow moviegoers to bounce my shock off of. Pretty damn sure sign of how effective these films are,right there,if you ask me:

A lot of people feel that the popularity of the Paranormal Activity films and others like them is a good path for the horror film genre to be on.

As even the most diehard gore fans tire of such gruesome fare as the Saw series and "torture porn",which leaves a bad taste in my mouth,fear films that play upon the imagination,with or without elaborate special effects,seem like a true breath of fresh air. The PA films put some in mind of movies like The Haunting(the '63 version,not the ridiculous remake),a fine example of haunted house fare.

I also think that reviving the haunted house trope is a good one,especially when you consider the dramatic upheaval of the real estate market and the harsh economic climate we've been in for the past few years now. Subtlety is like a little black dress,it never really goes out of style,not to mention that the old saying "There's no place like home" can be given a sinister undertone if said in the so-wrong-it's-right way:

Of course,you can argue over whether or not the PA films can be called haunted house stories,since the locale of the supernatural torment changes from each movie and similar to this past spring's hit horror flick Insidious,it's more about the people than the setting.

However,flexibility has been granted to other sub genres and it can be applied here. While the PA films are not strictly haunted house bound,the main action of the story is framed within the confines of a supposedly happy household which makes the evil events that more glaringly awful.

In order to gain any real traction with today's generation of horror fans,the haunted house film has to go beyond the Amityville Horror stereotype and ramp up the nuances. Otherwise,it's doomed to fail:

No doubt as I'm writing this,plans are under way for a fourth PA film and we can only hope that the next chapter in this story has plenty of meat on it's story bones. As for any other attempts to spin off this success,if you're going for the haunted house vibe,you better find a seriously plausible reason for anyone to stay in that hostile environment or the whole thing's going to be just one big joke:

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