Two Films Creep Into 'Witch' Territory
By Tricia Romano Posted Oct 17th 2009 02:00PM
Ever since the 'Blair Witch Project' -- the super minimalist horror flick (made for $100,000) with the maximum amount of scary (and profit -- it grossed $248 million worldwide) -- appeared on the scene 10 years ago, people have been searching for something that will give them the willies as effectively as the freaked-out-in-the-woods flick did. The movie industry, of course, is looking to duplicate the low-budget film's wildly successful box office and this Fall, there's not one, but two, new pictures vying for 'Blair Witch''s title of Most Realistically Creepy Scary Movie.
The 'Blair Witch' terrified everyone by not showing too much; the filmmakers kept you in the dark, and let you listen to the sounds, the rustling of the trees, and then you'd get a glimpse of something moving just enough to send a chill down your spine. The first movie that taps into the 'Blair' juju, 'Paranormal Activity,' gives you the creeps far more effectively than the other movie ('Fourth Kind' ... keep reading). The 'Paranormal' plot is very simple: a new couple move into their new suburban house, and the boyfriend, in an attempt to nullify his girlfriend's claims that ghosts follow her wherever she goes, sets up a video camera in their bedroom to film what doesn't happen when they are sleeping. Except he's proven very wrong.
In the trailer, which is a clever combo of footage of audiences viewing it for the first time and losing their minds with snippets of some of the more chilling scenes from the movie, you see a sheet rustling, you hear a whistling sound, you see a door swing open, you see faint outlines of footsteps, and bruises on the girl. Though realistic, the filmmaker, Oren Peli, doesn't make any real overtures into convincing you that it's based on a true story; just a "what if?" scenario, which is far more effective.
Like 'Blair Witch,' Peli's budget is low: $15,000, and in this age of Twitter and Facebook and blogging, the audience takes care of much of the marketing, for free. By using Twitter and the website, fans are supposed to request screenings to get the movie to their town; once it's reached a certain number, the movie is shown at a theatre near you (and once they reach a million requests it's going nationwide). Typically, Paranormal Activity is shown at midnight, which is a perfect way to send you home to bed, absolutely terrified. Scary Grade: 9 out of 10. Realistically Real Grade: 8 out 10.
Then, there's 'The Fourth Kind,' an alien abduction movie; the title is a reference to the different kinds of alien encounters -- abduction being the fourth. It purports to be based on real events in Nome, Alaska, and mixes old documentary footage shot in the seventies when the events took place, with the real psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler's, face digitally erased. The filmmaker, Olatunde Osunsanmi, combines fictionalized footage, with Milla Jovovich in the title role, who tells us, "that everything in this movie is supported by archive footage; some of what you are about to see is extremely disturbing."
As for the footage: the people are supposed abductees relating their encounters to Tyler. They tell us about seeing owls, which are really aliens, by their window. She hypnotizes them and they freak out and scream and reveal that it wasn't really an owl. One person levitates ... sufficiently disturbing. However, it appears that the marketing campaign to convince everyone that this is the real deal wasn't given a thick enough layer. An Alaskan newspaper has already poked holes in the "based on real events" premise, stating that there's no record of an Abigail Tyler in the state board or in any profession in the state of Alaska. So much for that. http://community.adn.com/adn/node/143292 Scary Grade: 7 out of 10. Realistically Real Grade: 4 out 10.
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