Archive for October, 2009

Paranormal Activity is gaining a lot of pre-wide release Internet buzz much like The Blair Witch Project. It’s also being said it’s uber scary much like Blair Witch. While this has been said about a lot of films since the phenomenon that was Blair Witch, the thing that makes Paranormal Activity stand out from the crowd is the buzz is legit and it really is scary.

Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) just moved into a new house together. They’re very happy except for the apparent haunting that plagues their nights with flickering lights and loud noises. Fascinated by Katie’s decades long curse, Micah purchases a video camera to try to capture the phenomena on film. This is when the film begins, lending it a documentary feel. Micah is successful in his quest, but as the days pass the intensity and severity of the incidences increases until it becomes unbearable.

The movie plays out like the first climb of a 20 storey rollercoaster – slow at first but building anticipation and anxiety the closer it gets to the top, then scaring the hell out of you with a heart-pounding drop.

The entire narrative is seen through Micah’s camera, which is recording almost non-stop (though we are obviously watching an edited version of the footage); of course the most interesting things are captured when no one is actually controlling what the camera records – particularly through the green tint of night vision. The daytime footage, especially in the first act, is filler between all the creepy happenings though even those are tame through the initial part of the movie. The placard that notes what day it is and the time stamps on the night footage are good additions with the time often contributing to disturbing nature of the scene.

Brilliantly, the filmmakers casted unknown actors to portray the lead characters allowing for the documentary feel to really take hold of the audience’s imagination – there is no previous reference to obscure your connection with the characters. Furthermore, their performances are excellent and their reactions seem very genuine.

Paranormal Activity is definitely not a movie you’ll easily forget when you leave the theatre…or when you go to bed at night.

“Nut up or shut up.” This phrase is said repeatedly before key moments in Zombieland, but it is also a good descriptive for the film because it takes every device it employs to its absurd end.

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has more than 30 rules he strictly lives by in the world now overrun with zombies – they’re the reason he’s outlived most other people. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) only appears to have one rule: kill zombies; not just the zombies trying to eat him but all zombies wherever they may be. Together, they might just get each other killed. Wichita (Emma Stone) and her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) do whatever they must to survive without regard for anyone else’s well being. Of course that disregard comes into question when they meet the guys.

Even the zombie purist can enjoy this film for the horror comedy it portrays. It doesn’t abide by a lot of the traditional rules, but most of the violations serve a comedic/entertaining purpose – it wouldn’t be as amusing if Tallahassee was running at a snail-paced zombie with a hammer and a smile. Besides, Zombieland isn’t trying to make a statement; it’s just trying to have a good time (and it’s not a remake).

Eisenberg is “the other guy” that plays young men with confidence issues, though he is at least as good as Michael Cera. Here he is flawless as the somewhat uptight loner just trying to get home. Harrelson is also great as the guy who tries to “enjoy the little things,” which just happens to include destroying things whenever he feels the need. Not surprisingly, he plays the slightly unbalanced guy with balls quite well. Stone and Breslin’s sisterly bond is evident, though their relationship could easily have been interpreted as just good friends too. Stone is convincing as the girl who’s trying to appear tougher than she really is, while being sexy without trying (or beauty products). Breslin looks all grown up since her breakthrough performance in Little Miss Sunshine, but her talent is almost wasted in such a small role that often has her sleeping or screaming.

A celebrity cameo (by who I can’t say, but it’s out there…or better yet, be surprised) is easily worth the price of admission. The guest appearance scenes are hilarious and the actor’s exit from the film is entirely fitting and comical.

The other element of amusement is Columbus’ rules, which guide his every move and flash across the screen when appropriate. The top three are: 1. Cardio; 2. Double tap; and 3. Beware of bathrooms. Of the 32 we are privy to, they are all practical, make logical sense and could definitely contribute to extended life during a zombie apocalypse – you may consider adding an extra page to your copy of Max Brook’s The Zombie Survival Guide.