Written by Phil Robinson Sunday, 30 October 2011 17:40
Features - Reviews
Halloween; It’s that time of the year when things that go bump in the night surface and everyone loves to scare themselves into a frenzy with a good scary flick, and those horror lovers of us at Freeq magazine was eager to see what was showing at our local Cineworld. Currently showing is the eagerly awaited Paranormal Activity 3 and the latest offering from Del Toro’s dark imagination; Don’t be afraid of the dark.
Don’t be afraid of the dark.
Return of the good old fashioned horror story.
Writer for the film Guillermo Del Toro teams up with first time film director Troy Nixon in this remake of the creepy 1973 version, which told the tale of a woman (Sally) being terrorized by a horde of demonic little creatures living beneath her new home. The new version introduces some new faces, and instead of Sally being a grown woman we meet Sally as a depressed child (Bailee Madison) struggling with her parents split and having to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) .
Essentially this is almost a carbon copy of the original, apart from a clever take on what the creatures really are and a few character changes, and with a cast primarily made up of four people you can understand why it has received mixed reviews. Yes the story is simple and somewhat predictable and the sets are few and far between, but these qualities only help to exploit the real focus of the film which is both the changing relationships of the central three characters and the creatures themselves. What you are left with is (in true Del Torro fashion) is a perfect mix of horror, fantasy and drama and unlike many horror films which rely on bombarding the audience with scares and gore this film slowly and gradually makes you invest time in the characters so by the end of the film you really feel attached and fearful of the climax (which left me breathless).
Initially I was not sure about the choice of actors to play the parent roles, but both Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce played their parts realistically never letting themselves get carried away and melodramatic as the real centre of the creatures attention was on claiming young Sally as their own and Madison was subtly able to portray anger, fear, sadness and love in ever changing situations and environments.
But the real stars of the show here are the little gnarled, quick moving monsters themselves which come across as if plucked right out of a gothic horror tale such as The Brothers Grimm and fit perfectly in the Gothic styled Blackwood Mansion. When I first saw that the creatures were CGI I was expecting them to be disappointing and unrealistic. However instead of having the creatures in full view the little critters are for the most part only glimpsed at scurrying and climbing various darker corners of the house which only heightens the intrigue and pure pleasure when they eventually come out at night causing their own violent mischief. Even when they are not seen in full your attention is pinned on the creatures whispering voices coming from the grating in the floor which add to them having their own persona and not just a monster that looks nasty; these are vindictive nasty beings.
Unfortunately a film like this which chooses not to obey the predictable rules of horror films come to pass is doomed to receive criticism, and if you are looking for a terrifying horror film that is dark and disturbing then you are definitely going to be disappointed. Make no mistake this film is not perfect, but if you are willing to broaden your view and accept the eclectic mix of drama fairy tale fantasy and horror then you will find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Paranormal activity 3
Not a masterpiece but absolutely terrifying!
The ill-fated sisters are back in the third instalment of paranormal activity and like all good trilogies, this film goes right back to the roots to tie up some loose ends from the first two films. The story is simple and if you have watched the first two then you know exactly what you are getting yourself in for. Set back in the late 1980’s the film follows Katie and Kristi as young girls plagued by the nasty presence Kristy likes to call Toby (her aggressive imaginary friend!).
As with the first two films we are once again given the same slow build-up of unbearable tension, raw home camera work, neat subtle and convincing special effects and quality acting from everyone involved. The creators of this franchise have found the perfect blend of horror and tension by stripping it all down to its bare essentials so that you really feel as though you are part of a real experience.
The scare aspect is one of the main elements that keep these films alive and I was really worried it was going to be much of the same that we have already seen, but the film takes on board what has previously been offered and builds on it. We have the more of objects being thrown around, lifted, moved and smashed aspect. We have more of ghostly looking apparitions being spotted on camera that are there one second then gone the next, but this time we have a dialogue and a disturbing relationship that seems to be taking place primarily between Kristi (featured in the second film) and the spectre in question. The entity seems to know what it wants and expresses its wishes more overtly and earlier on than in the first two films (a wise move as we the audience knows the formula and want to get right to it).
There are also more ‘jump out of your seat’ scenes happening but not too many that they distract from the tension that maintains all the way through until the films climax, and these give a nice sudden change of pace that scares without ruining the film. We welcome back the much loved hand held camera, night camera and here we see the new addition: the oscillating camera. This is a great new way of maintaining tension by panning an empty room one second then on its second rotation of the same room there is of course something waiting in the shadows. The silent aspect of the film and the long drawn out camera pans of each room In the night is just as terrifying, not knowing what next is going leap out at you; what you don’t see is just as scary.
Unlike the previous films the two characters the apparition is focused on are helpless children (who both play their parts very convincingly). Unlike adult characters who can to some degree find ways to cope and communicate their fears, the two children become increasingly vulnerable and unable to fight back or even comprehend the seriousness of what is happening. The two adult leads also portray a believable relationship which cleverly reminds us of Mika and Katie in the first film, possibly a conscious decision to cast Christopher Nicholas Smith who bears an uncanny resemblance to the character of Micah.
The other reason why these films haven’t died out is that each film offers new insights into the family history of the sisters which builds on the overall mythology. What you get are three individual films split over different timelines, each with unanswered threads that are tied up in any of the other two films. It almost appears as though this was one long film chopped and reassembles into three films then presented to us backwards leaving you to connect the dots and make some of your own conclusions, which is partly the joy and will leave you talking about all three after the credits (as well as turning on all the lights when you get home).
Horror fans will love it, everyone else find should find a safe warm place to hide!