Monday, November 1, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

Saw 3D [*], Paranormal Activity 2 [***]

This Halloween weekend I partook of a horrifying double feature. Last year, a short lived rivalry began between the Saw franchise and a "we didn't know it then but we do now" upstart young franchise called Paranormal Activity. The latter was the superior film last year and this year the competition yielded the same results.

After seven films the Saw franchise has finally managed to wear out its welcome, although it started to show serious fatigue with the fifth entry. Paranormal Activity, on the other hand, shows no real signs of fatigue. The scare ratio is about the same and the characters come across in equal portions of sympathetic and likable, but doubtful or sympathetic, likable and eventually terrified. If anybody seems like they're being an asshole it's not because we need a character to root against but because they think the leap people around them are making is a little ridiculous and they'd be right if it weren't so horrifyingly true.

For me the most effective aspects of Paranormal Activity have to do with the complete lack of reverence men have for the spiritual world and how this complete disregard for the things that go bump in the night seems to drive everything to a fever pitch. You can say it's about a demon looking for a soul until you're blue in the face but you still can't ignore the fact that its about man's ignorance and superiority if they think that certain handshake agreements don't exist between the worlds as well. Remember, a handshake or a promise (a word handshake) is the reason this started to begin with so of course they honor them.

All of this being said, both films are dependent on their predecessors to deepen or worsen (here's looking at you Saw 3D) the franchise's mythology. Paranormal expounds on something hinted at in the first film and while it contains some slightly redundant exposition it is ultimately comprised of new and satisfying information. Saw 3D asks us to believe in the mother of all fail safes in the form of an answer to an oft-asked question about the film(s) that no one really cares about the answer to. That being said, Saw 3D's efforts to bring the film's full circle goes so far over the rails into lunacy that it actually ends up being a little endearing. That's not to say that the film is actually good, but its wide eyed optimism and stupidity can't be ignored. Doesn't mean you have to like it.

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