Thursday, October 29, 2009

Saw VI and Paranormal Activity

Yet again, I’m happy to announce a pair of films I’ve had the pleasure to view within a few days of each other. Rather than choosing one or the other, I decided that I’ll just write a piece about both.

The two films I had seen this week were Saw VI and Paranormal Activity. Instead of going out to see the movies right when they came out, I waited a few days to do so. The main reason was because I went to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios over the weekend and I was pretty exhausted after getting back from the trip. I needed a day, Sunday, to recuperate and then went to the movie theater on Monday to see Saw VI. As I walked in, however, I noticed that they had a marquee for Paranormal Activity. I was surprised because I knew the film was in limited release throughout the country and only bigger cities had the movie available. Being that I live in Cowtown USA, I didn’t think it would’ve been released here. But there was the title, standing out in glorious lettering on the display above the entryway, so I silently debated what I should see that day. After a few seconds, I went with Saw VI and promised myself I’d come back for Paranormal Activity later that week.

So, in the order I’d watched the films, I’ll review them. Without further ado, here they are.

As I sat and waited for Saw VI to begin, I couldn’t help but think of the last film and began to think that this film may turn out the same way. Hopefully whoever’s reading this is all caught up with the prior films and know what I’m talking about as I go through this. See, the film deals with characters of the last few films, flashing back and sometimes just bringing back people from the prior movie or the one before last.

I know...sounds confusing, right?

Anyway, this sequel takes place right after the last, where Agent Strahm was duped by Detective Hoffman and killed. See, we find out in the last two movies that Hoffman is basically taking Jigsaw’s place and creating some of the “games” that are causing people to be killed. Strahm was right on his tail and nearly had him, but like I’d said, he died.

Anyway, this film brings in an insurance company that turned down a claim for John Kramer (Jigsaw) to help him with his cancer as we see in flashbacks. The lead man of the company, William, is the one chosen to play the new game and goes through quite a bit with choosing some people, individuals associated to him through the insurance company, to live or die. Meanwhile, Hoffman is making sure the FBI is not closing in on him while he’s overseeing the game.

Jill, John’s wife, is brought into the story again and we get to find out what was in the box that was left to her in the previous film. I’d go further into that, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

I’ve got to say that this entry was a little better and less confusing than the last film, but not as good as the first three. I don’t know where the filmmakers are going with this story as a whole, but it seems as if they’re going to great lengths to some climactic conclusion. Really, I don’t care because, overall, the franchise is very entertaining and thrilling, although constantly criticized for this or that. But the traps are what really sell the films because they’re so sadistic yet ingenious in every entry.

As long as they keep their promise by releasing a sequel every year near Halloween, I’ll be there in the seat with my bag of popcorn and Milk Duds.

So, two days later, I swing back to the movie house for the second of my double feature review, Paranormal Activity.

Paranormal Activity was a little weird when it began. See, the normalcy of movie-going is sitting down after gathering your movie paraphernalia, such as popcorn and drinks, and watching the previews before the movie starts. The previews went on as always and suddenly there is this text on the screen about the two characters in the film, Katie and Micah, with some thanks to the San Diego Police Department or something to that effect. There was no “Paramount Pictures Presents,” nor were there the title words, "Paranormal Activity," on the screen to announce that this was the main attraction beginning, just the text that I’d mentioned and that was it.

As many know, the film was shot documentary style, à la Blair Witch Project, as if it were a real life video that this couple decided to film. To some (like myself), this may seem like a tired trend already, but for others, I guess it worked. However tired or old it may have seemed to me, it didn’t take anything away from the film.

With only about four characters in the movie, it was easy to follow and get some good character study pretty quickly. Right away, we find out that Katie and Micah are concerned about some disturbances that have been going on in their house. Between the two, we get the sense that Katie is a little scared about all this and takes the situation very seriously, not wanting Micah to film at times and feeling they need assistance from outside experts. Micah, on the other hand, kind of smirks a bit and laughs things off as he constantly films everything he can, sometimes trying to antagonize whatever demon or spirit is in the house.

As classic horror movies go, Paranormal Activity uses the tried and true formula of giving the audience only little scares at first, slowly building up more and more until the film comes to a big climax. Because what Micah documents at first may be something that could be easily explained as house creaking or kids from next door pulling pranks. But as the sounds and hijinks become greater, the scarier and spookier the situation becomes. A nice touch the filmmakers decided on was showing some of the goings-on in sped up footage and when you see these images, it really adds in helping the audience to get creeped out and making the circumstances more intense.

While Paranormal Activity goes on to show us a lot more than what Blair Witch gave us, it’s still the things we don’t see on screen that scare us the most.

So, what’s my final “bit” on Saw VI and Paranormal Activity?

Saw VI definitely cleared up some questions you may have had from the previous film, but you’d probably do well to watch all prior five films before going in to see this one. It really didn’t feature too many scares, but let’s face it, it’s the devious and brutal traps that we watch these films for, right? I think it might’ve been a mistake to kill Jigsaw off earlier (in part 3, was it?), because how can they continue to keep him devising traps from beyond the grave? As a big fan of the Saw franchise, I may be a little biased, but I really love every entry they’ve released to date.

Paranormal Activity, on the other hand, was a scary film, especially if you put yourself in the characters’ places. Almost everybody has been in that spot where they hear bumps in the night or unexplained movement of items, either by witnessing it or seeing the aftermath of it later. Keeping the cast down to a minimum was brilliant and the story, although not much to it, was good. The acting was believable and the two main players were very likable. Comparing it to Blair Witch Project is fair and I’d say that Paranormal Activity was a bit better and scarier.