October 19, 2012
"If there's something strange, in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call? Fully insured and registered Fortean phenomena detectives!" Alright, it's not as catchy as "Ghostbusters," but hey, if we've learnt anything from this week's selection of titles, better safe than sorry. Besides, that Ray Parker Jr. track pops into our head during any picture in which the characters attempt to contact supernatural forces. With Paranormal Activity 4 scaring up audiences around the globe, and Halloween right around the corner, we're sharing our top 10 paranormal investigation films.
Insidious ain't great, but this tale of a young boy "astrally projecting" himself into a parallel dimension does treat us to a reunion of former Recovery hosts Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell. As Tucker and Specs, they employ homemade devices to save the kid from the clutches of evil demons, and I'm sure the movie's miniscule budget has nothing to do with their very specific technological tools.
The late Zelda Rubinstein played medium Tangina Barrons in Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist, and what she lacked in stature, she made up in ferocious conviction to reclaim young Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) from "the Beast" in an other-worldly portal. That said, not even she can truly "clean" the Freeling family home. We're not going to blame Tangina's failures for the curse that would later befall the cast members of the Poltergeist series. Just seems like an awful coincidence.
John Cusack stars as a sceptical paranormal debunker in this chilling flick, based, like so many others before it, on a Stephen King story. When he checks into a cursed hotel room against the wishes of its manager (Samuel L. Jackson), Cusack's smug author expects an easy night. It takes mere moments for this sceptic to be transformed into a believer.
Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) is actually a con-artist merely pretending to have a direct line to the afterlife. That is, until the spirit of Patrick Swayze's Sam makes an honest woman out of her. He implores her to warn his wife (Demi Moore) of impending danger, and later, takes over Oda Mae's body for one final dance. It's totally cheesy (ahem) and on an unrelated note, I've got to go and wipe this dust out of my eye.
6. The Entity
Here's a harrowing one. Barbara Hershey's Carla Moran is being tormented and raped by some unseen spectre in a film that was similarly unseen at its time of release. Her therapist (Ron Silver) thinks she's imagining it, but a bunch of university parapsychologists take her word for it, concocting an elaborate ruse to record and hopefully destroy the abusive presence. Not for faint hearts.
Ti West, taking his cues from the playful kids' horror flicks of the 80's and 90's, presents us with two wannabe ghoul hunters in The Innkeepers. Sara Paxton and Pat Healy are bored clerks intent on taping the ghostly goings-on at their soon-to-be-closed Yankee Pedlar Inn. The comic tone eventually subsides in the face of some truly creepy sequences. With The House of the Devil also on his resume, West is building quite a reputation as one of the best "scary movie" directors working today.
The ingenious original Paranormal Activity deservedly grossed buckets of cash and spawned a fine franchise. Still, it has one of the lamest paranormal investigators in film history. Dr. Fredrichs (Mark Fredrichs) comes to help release poor Katie (Katie Featherston) from the mischievous demon that has haunted her family for decades. Except, he barely makes it through the front door before claiming he's "angering" the entity and making a run for it. Yeah, great help he is.
The Orphanage is a nice reminder that good people are often punished for their selfless deeds. Laura (Belen Rueda) purchases the old orphanage where she grew up with the hopes of renovating it and giving a home to abandoned children. However, the building already has a resident: the ghost of little Tomas, a maybe-malevolent little boy partial to wearing a sack over his head. A séance is held by medium Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin), leading to... well, we won't spoil it for you. Needless to say, shudder.
2. Lake Mungo
Joel Anderson's 2009 feature Lake Mungo is an Australian Story style mockumentary concerning the mysterious drowning of young Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker), and the even more mysterious circumstances leading up to her death. When her grieving family start to sense Alice's presence in their home, they recruit a parapsychologist (Steve Jodrell) of ethically dubious intentions. The deeper they dig, the less they wish they had discovered. Even the paranormal investigator in this movie would admit that some things should stay buried. A haunting, evocative, wildly underrated pic.
Well, when all is said and done, who are you going to call? Exactly.