Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Paranormal Activity is Real

I knew going into Paranormal Activity that is was not real, and nor was it ever marketed it as such. Apparently other people were not privy to such information.

If you've seen the film, you know it opens with Paramount thanking a family and the San Diego Police Department. These few words prompted an audience member to say to her friend, "So it is true."

Yeah, it's true all right. Just like the Easter Bunny, Jesus and healthcare reform. It's all true and oh-so-frightening.

Audience members were scared, so the film had that going for it. When the film reached its conclusion some people were pissed. Some were puzzled (huge surprise). Others said things like, "Do you feel that noise? It means something is happening." Classic. So in that sense, the film did work.

But it also didn't.

It could have been much scarier. It could have done that without going overboard, too. Instead it went the subtle route (a bold move that showed much restraint) and hoped for the best. That helped sell the picture, but it didn't make it as heart-stopping as it could have had the filmmakers just opted to up the tension a bit.

The real value of the film, to me at least, is not how effective it was or wasn't. It is how the audience reacted to it. From what I saw, the film was wildly successful as it got people talking, made people jumped, and tricked more than one into thinking what they saw on the screen really occurred a few years ago. (One wonders, but ultimately doubts, if these people ever watch the news, as such remarkable footage would have surely made the rounds at some point.) Any film that can evoke such reactions and emotions deserves credit. After all, Premonition did not create such a stir. Nor did Fighting. In that sense, the little movie that could, did. Kudos.

Paranormal Activity is most definitely real ... but only if you believe it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Monster of Piedras Blancas

My friend and I were trying to figure out what movie this image came from (actually, the image we were discussing was one of the other most likely publicity stills). He thought it was The Creature From the Black Lagoon, while I seemed to think it was The Beast of Yucca Flats. Both of us were obviously wrong, but his answer was closer (especially when you consider that the creature costume for both films was made by the same guy).

I've never seen The Monster of Piedras Blancas, but the images from it have fascinated me (though apparently not enough to be able to correctly recall the film's title). I can attribute that to one thing: the bloody head.

Debuting in 1959, this film set new standards for gore, and though it was shot in black and white, I believe it was probably pretty effective. Even seeing the black and white stills now kind of take you aback. I challenge you to find other stills from the '50s that match the power of this one. Yeah, it's crude, but there is something about that crudeness that makes it more sinister.

Now that I've found the proper title to the movie, I kind of want to see it. I also have this strange desire to visit the lighthouse that provides the film's title and the one where it was filmed.

Oddly enough, I have seen most of (perhaps all, but it's been too long) one of Irvin Berwick's (director of The Monster of Piedras Blancas) most famous films, Malibu High, which has the tagline "Every Teacher in School Wanted to Flunk Her ... But Nobody Dared!" I remember my dad and his friends watching this and at one point realizing I was in the room and getting my young ass out of there. Sleaze by the bucket, but looking back at this still, I can't say I'm surprised.

Ahh, the good ol' days.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ebony and Ivory

I spent a lot of my youth fascinated by films of dubious quality. Yeah, I'm a fan of exploitation fare, but sometimes you gotta cut your losses. The Thing With Two Heads is one of those dubious films, and anyone who grew up in Eastern PA in the 1970s remembers that this was on television far too often.

Starring Ray Milland (Frogs, another questionable film) and football star Rosey Grier, this 1972 masterpiece tackles the age old question of "What if a racist got his head put on a black man's body?" I believe Different Strokes tackled the same question about a decade later.

Most notable for an insane plot and a competent (for the time) two-headed gorilla courtesy of Rick Baker, this film recently resurfaced on the THiS Network (where Frogs is also playing). Needless to say, when I saw it was on, I almost woke my five-year-old daughter out of a deep, deep sleep so that she could partake in one of the mainstays of my youth. (It was right up there with Squirm and The Incredible Melting Man.) Good sense got the best of me, however, and I let her sleep. When I informed her the next day of what I almost did her only reaction was, "Why would you do that?"

I had no good answer.

The trailer, presented below, gives you a fairly good idea of what this film is like. While doubtful that it will see remake status anytime soon, I think it could be the perfect vehicle for those Wayan Brothers (an inspired bit of casting would be Rush Limbaugh in the Ray Milland role). Sure, the Wayans may screw up the serious social commentary on racism and science gone amok, but think of the sheer sublime absurdity that would ensue. It almost seems like this project is green lighted before I even have finished this paragraph.

As for me that night it aired recently? I fell asleep, but woke up every once in a while and swore I was watching the same chase scene over and over.

What the hell was I ever thinking?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Being a big supporter of independent film and horror films, I'm asking that Eureka's denizens demand that Paranormal Activity play here. If the studio gets one million demands the film will open nationwide. Click here to demand the film play in your town.