Shocktober, Week Four: Paranormal Activity Is Dead

Shocktober, Week Four: Paranormal Activity Is Dead

October, we hardly knew ye.

I’ve been watching a glut of horror movies every week as part of Shocktober, and it’s been an especially fruitful year. It’s a genre best known for jump scares, but that’s selling good horror short — done right, it’s deeply thought provoking.

Every week, I’ve been filing reports from the field. So far, we’ve covered Goodnight Mummy, Unfriended, Cooties, The Visit, Jacob’s Ladder, We Are Still Here, Contracted: Phase II, Poltergeist, and The Tenant. Not a bad list, so long as we pretend the Poltergeist remake doesn’t exist and we never talk about it again.

Shocktober, Week Four: Paranormal Activity Is Dead

In addition to these, I’ve been recording a weekly podcast with my wife called Til Death Do Us Part. It’s been tremendously fun, and we’re looking forward to keeping it going past Shocktober. October isn’t the only month for horror! You can subscribe to via iTunes or stream it. If you use non-Apple podcast apps, grab the RSS feed from right here, and that should get you the podcast!

All that said, let’s end this right…

Crimson Peak(2015)

Shocktober, Week Four: Paranormal Activity Is Dead

I’m a few weeks behind, but that was a positive; I went into the movie with the right expectations. The trailers have been selling Crimson Peak as a fright fest, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Crimson Peak is a gothic romance that, as the movie points out in its opening, happens to feature a few ghosts.

It’s utterly gorgeous — we accidentally saw an IMAX showing, and I couldn’t be happier — and full of the hammiest performances from an all-star cast that wouldn’t be caught dead in a movie like this, if it weren’t for del Toro’s name.

Can we talk about something for a second, though? What’s up with del Toro’s love affair with Charlie Hunnam? Look, I watched every season of Sons of Anarchy because the first two seasons made me fall in love with a bunch of biker arseholes and I was determined to see how it all ended (awfully, by the way), but Hunnam’s presence in del Toro’s past two films — Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak — have me convinced Hunnam really is a terrible actor. I was howling the first time he appeared on-screen with the incredible Mia Wasikowska, who managed to out-act Hunnam without even really trying. Stay in your lane, Hunnam!

Crimson Peak isn’t great, but a movie made with love. The set design, the performances, the fleeting but frightening apparitions — del Toro is wears his passions on his sleeve. Crimson Peak is undeniably del Toro, for better and worse.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)

Shocktober, Week Four: Paranormal Activity Is Dead

It’s popular to shit on Paranormal Activity these days because there’s been so many of them, but lemme be real: they scare the shit out of me. Yes, some are better than others — 1, 3, 5 are the best ones — but in an era where movies can’t wait to show you everything and and anything to keep you interested, a series that prides itself on scaring you by showing basically nothing remains novel.

It’s funny, then, that The Ghost Dimension takes the opposite approach. The goofy “see the activity for the first time” tagline translates into a refreshing way to experience the same bumps in the night that have defined theses movies, thanks to a magic camera that allows the residents to “see” the ghosts.

It’s definitely “see” in quotes, though. As with most Paranormal Activity movies, you can tell the budget was whatever they found in the cushions. That works fine when it’s nothing more than sheets fluttering in the night, less so when it’s trying to scare you with demons marching around. Once again, less is more, and The Ghost Dimension is most effective when it’s playing with your perception.

One effective scene involves a ghost hovering over a child while the mother comforts them. As we swap between shots that show us the demon and shots that hide them, our mind fills in the blanks, and it’s a great setup for a scare.

If you haven’t been following along since the original, there’s not much to watch The Ghost Dimension. This one’s for people who, for whatever reason, have become invested in What The Hell Is Going On. I’m one of those people, and I thought it ended pretty well. As much as you could hope from a ghost story that should have ended after the first one and kept going five more times, anyway.

Insidious: Chapter Three (2015)

Shocktober, Week Four: Paranormal Activity Is Dead

I could watch a dozen movies with Lin Shaye running around and shouting at ghosts. As the glue of the Insidious series, she’s carved out a niche as an old bad arse. This pseudo-origin story is about why she keeps on talking to the dead.

Yes, Insidious: Chapter Two was bad, but it’s worth coming back for the third one. You don’t say that very often about a horror franchise, but it’s true. The course correction here is finally ditching the dragged out storyline that made the second film a bore, and finding a new group of people for ghosts to terrorize.

For three movies now, Insidious has been about the quiet, obnoxiously loud violins, and jump scares. That formula continues to pay off in Insidious: Chapter Three, largely fuelled by the horrifying new specters they have come up with.

But what makes it work is Shaye grounding the whole thing emotionally. Origin stories are where horror goes to die, as a series seeks to “explain” what’s going on. That’s not the case with Insidious: Chapter Three, as it largely succeeds at providing context to the previous entries, enriching the stories that come after.

Bring on Insidious: Chapter Four, I say.

Shocktober, Week Four: Paranormal Activity Is Dead

Thanks for watching these movies with me this month! Let’s do it again soon.


  • I saw PA: GD this week and Crimson Peak. Crimson, I savoured every moment of. The Victorian era gothic setting was just transcendant. Del Toro nailed the aesthetics and he even set up the habits of the periods writers (a lot of fictions writers at the time were actually females under pen names). He played with how Ghosts were metaphors (as they were in Crimson Peak) and what a beautiful, beautiful movie it was. It was a little long, a few scenes could have been tightened, but what a goddamn movie. What a god DAMN movie.

    Now, PA:GD… goddamn movie. Goddamn that movie. Goddamn me for watching that movie. Ugh what a goddamn movie…

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