OHC – Bits and Bobs

In this brief post, reviews for two films that I knocked out right before Halloween night. Nothing special, although one is immensely better than the other. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first…

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Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) – FTV
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

I’m honestly not sure why I watched this one. It’s not like I’m a fan of the series. I went to see the first one in the theater, and was impressed by a couple of the effects in the film. I liked the presentation of it – no credits at the beginning or end, cast of unknowns, so on. Ultimately I wasn’t overwhelmed, and when a sequel was announced, it didn’t fuss me much. Eventually Paranormal Activity 2 showed up on Netflix Instant, so I gave it a go. It was pretty terrible, not only as sequels go, but for these kinds of movies to work as a series, the action has to be ramped up each time. There should be better effects, ones that make the audience really scratch their heads and wonder how it was done if NOT by poltergeists? PA2 seemed to drag forever until an obnoxiously loud ending, and an epilogue that promises another sequel. But Paranormal Activity 3 doesn’t exactly follow the first two films – it’s a prequel in which we get more backstory to the whole damn thing. We get to see the main characters of the previous films as children.

A scene from the trailer, but not the final film.

The sisters, Katie and Kristi, live with their mom and her boyfriend in a suburban California home. Kristi, the younger of the girls, has an invisible friend named Toby. If you’ve seen any kind of horror film with children and invisible friends, you can tell what’s going to happen. It’s the same sort of set-up as the first two films: weird stuff is going on, the man of the house decides to record what’s happening, freaky shit is caught on tape, the film ends with a bumrush of what-the-funkery before roll credits. I should note that PA2 and PA3 have closing credits, unlike PA1, which kind of ruins the mood a little. I mean, we all know these movies are fake, but do the filmmakers have to stick it in our faces like that?

Anyhow, many people were disappointed in Paranormal Activity 3, because there were apparently several scenes in the trailers and previews that didn’t make it into the actual film (example above, although there is a similar scene in the movie). I understand that disappointment, but since by the time I saw PA3 I’d forgotten the previews entirely, so I didn’t feel too bad about any of that. I actually found myself enjoying the film, despite its major flaws – things like the film being widescreen and high definition when it’s supposed to have been shot all on VHS tape, the cheap fake-out scares, and the effects that are relatively easy to figure out for anyone who’s seen their share of ghost stories. I rather liked the backstory it provided, because let’s face it, I like [SPOILER WARNING] movies about witches’ covens. I think it’s why I liked The Last Exorcism so much, despite THAT film’s massive flaws. I didn’t expect that weirdo ending, even though it was obviously foreshadowed. I thought it was creepy as heck. Paranormal Activity 3 is not a great film, but it kept my attention and it added more to the overall storyline, and it was better crafted than the second film in the series. It helps to keep your expectations low, though.

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Son of Frankenstein (1939) – FTV
Directed by Rowland V. Lee

Since I’d already watched Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein (twice!), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Frankenweenie (both versions!), it seemed natural to sit down with Son of Frankenstein, which was the last time Boris Karloff would play the famous monster. I’d also kept my expectations low for this one, because I’d been jaded by Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, which only exists for the final reel, where Frankenstein and the Wolf Man beat the snot out of each other. That particular film also retcons both of its original films’ storylines so much that there’s no real connection to any previous film. So something like Son of Frankenstein sounded like a pure cash-in, and maybe it was, but damn does it ever click.

Well, hello!

Set several years, a generation actually, after the first two films, this movie is about the Victor Frankenstein’s son Wolf returning with his wife and son to his father’s hometown, where the villagers are entirely unwelcoming save for the lead police inspector. Wolf vows not to continue his father’s experiments, but soon he finds that a condemned man who survived a hanging (for the crime of body snatching) has been using the infamous creature to carry out a series of murders around the countryside. The creature, however, has fallen ill and Wolf’s natural curiosity has him finding a way to bring the monster back into consciousness. Of course none of this goes well, and Wolf ends up destroying his father’s greatest work, which isn’t quite as poetic and touching as the monster destroying himself in Bride of Frankenstein, but it’s still effective.

For those of you who are fans of Young Frankenstein, like my parents as I mentioned before, you’ll notice many familiar scenes and characters in Son of Frankenstein, particularly the police inspector with the wooden limb. Mel Brooks took the plausible absurdities in the first three Frankenstein films and turned them just counterclockwise enough to make them completely absurd. Frankly, though, he didn’t have to turn them too much. Anyhow, while Son of Frankenstein isn’t as great a sequel as Bride, it’s a wonderful film all on its own and a brilliant addition to the Frankenstein family.

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One more post, all about the films I watched in honor of Halloween, and then a big wrap-up post as a companion to the podcast, and the October Challenge blogging is closed for this year. However, I will remain here to write about other horror, exploitation and cult films on a semi-regular basis. See you all soon.

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