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directed by  Matthew Bolton
USA 2011

 

Four days after six Pepperdine University students took their cameras into the Odenbrook Sanitarium (abandoned since the sixties when the inmates staged a mass suicide), John (Oliver Rayon, SUPER SHARK) wakes up in the hospital covered in scratches and the blood of his five missing friends. FBI agent Rebecca (Amanda Barton, HILLSIDE CANNIBALS) seems to believe that he is innocent, but wants to take him through the surviving video footage to discover what happened to his friends: non-believer Samantha (Chelsea Vincent, ALIEN ORIGIN), believer/paranormal data tracker Tess (Sabrina Villalobos), her friend Danny (Derrick Scott, 2010: MOBY DICK) who just wants a project grade, jock Brennan (Brett Edwards) - seemingly coming along so various characters can repeatedly say the line oft-head in found footage films: "You're such an asshole!" (although he gives the only decent performance) - and his caricature-of-a-bimbo-girlfriend Blake (BEAUTY AND THE GEEK contestant Nadia Underwood). John has to duck out early when he gets a call from his sister about his grandmother's accident, but Rebecca has had access to his phone records and knows that Tess made the calls. John admits that he and Tess plotted to scare the others into belief, and that he chained the sanitarium's only exit with plans to come back later that night; however, he cannot account for his whereabouts beyond that point, even though he swears he did not return until the end of the weekend. Inside, the remaining five experience escalating "paranormal activity" (the title is dropped by one of the characters early in the film as if that makes this film any more savvy) including the usual slamming doors, offscreen sounds, and apparitions that do not appear when the footage is reviewed, but also audible footsteps and EVP (electronic voice phenomena). While Samantha, Danny, Tess, and Brennan are off collecting data, Blake discovers footage of Brennan having sex with another woman on his video camera and storms off that evening (only to be pursued and seemingly killed by some offscreen force). The next day, the remaining four discover that they have been locked in. Brennan suspects that Blake locked them in, but Tess quickly breaks down and admits her plot with John. When they discover more disturbing "paranormal activity" (I use that term over and over again, because most of what you see isn't anything that you haven't already seen in that series) recorded while they were sleeping, they are desperate to find any other ways to get out of the building. As night sets in, the force starts picking them off one by one (or is it John?).

Although the film's title PARANORMAL INCIDENT references the more popular PARANORMAL ACTICITY series (part four is forthcoming even though part three seems to have brought everything full circle), the more obvious source of inspiration for this film is likely GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, a film about surviving footage from a reality show's disastrous attempt to document paranormal activity in an abandoned asylum. Despite some silly CGI, unlikable characters, a stupid twist, and the overall impression of "smug filmmakers behind the camera making fun of smug filmmakers in front of the camera" (in a nevertheless justifiable attempt to skewer the "personalities" of the specific paranormal reality shows PARANORMAL STATE and GHOST ADVENTURES), the latter film built up a palpable atmosphere of dread and disorientation, and was at times successfully jolting. THE PARANORMAL INCIDENT achieves none of that, and it does it very quickly. The acting ranges from awkward to off-puttingly bad with the actors going annoyingly over-the-top during some of the ad-libbed scenes (and yet the characters are not given the chance to be unlikable enough for us to root for their inevitable deaths). The filmmakers fail to engender any sense of atmosphere with abandoned prison location standing in for the sanitarium, and most of the scares are the "whip-the-camera-towards-the-source-of-a-loud-noise" variety. Although Rebecca and John are supposed to be watching surviving video footage, it is not only composed of footage from multiple cameras, but also some "objective" camera angles that do not correspond to any of the characters' cameras or the surveillance cameras (including a couple through-the-windshield shots of the characters filming each other in the cars early on and POV's creeping up on characters later in the film). Even if all of this footage could have been stitched together - and scored with incidental music - in the one or two days since the tragedy, what would be the utility of trying to jog a character's memory with this assembly (which is, in a sense, a narrative constructed by whoever cut the footage together as such); and wouldn't the people who put the footage together notice all of the subliminal flashes of the character's fates intercut throughout including some angles that we do not see when they actually meet their demises). Since Rebecca starts and stops this flashback footage with a remote control, the filmmakers do not have the same creative liberty of other "found footage" films with simpler framing devices (the footage in GRAVE ENCOUNTERS was also edited and scored, but this was supposedly done by the TV producer who received the footage, not police investigators). The surprise twist at the end is novel (for the sub-genre); but, while it explains some of the earlier inconsistencies and oddities in Rebecca's alternately accusatory and sympathetic interrogation, it's "too little, too late" and ultimately an unsatisfying cop-out. Several of the crew members and most of the main cast memebers - as well as supporting actor Thomas Downey, playing a very THE X FILES-esque smoking FBI agent - are veterans of many a production by The Asylum, and this could easily be mistaken for one of their productions (although The Asylum already has their own PARANORMAL ENTITY series).

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 31 October 2011 (USA)

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DVD Review: Arrow Films - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Arrow Films

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:22:24 (4% PAL Speedup)
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.8 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Trailer (16:9; 1:30)
• Start-up Trailer for THE TUNNEL

DVD Release Date: 23 July 2012
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Arrow Film's single-layer, anamorphic DVD is rife with interlacing artifacts, suggesting that this HD-lensed American film might not have been shot in 1080i59.94. It is noticeable in slight actor movements, but distracting whenever the cameras pan around quickly in search of the sources of mysterious noises. The result is certainly watchable; and it could be argued that such imperfections add to the "found footage" feel. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, but the US Region 1 disc is also reportedly stereo only. Dialogue is always audible over the music, and the sudden noises seem to have been mostly recorded on set so the sound design isn't that sophisticated. Other than the trailer (and a start-up trailer for THE TUNNEL, another "found footage" horror movie with a framing device), there are no extras.

Although the US DVD (B006UTDGV0) was not available for comparison, it reportedly features a cast/crew commentary, bloopers, and behind the scenes.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Arrow Films

Region 2 - PAL

 

 




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