Halloween treats

blairwitchReady to feel really old(er)? 

It’s been a decade since the “Blair Witch Project.”

The little box-office-terror-train-that-could managed to become a phenomenon back in 1999, setting the film world abuzz. It has since divided audiences into two distinct camps, but its lightning-in-a-bottle momentum of creative marketing (remember, this is when the internet was still just entering households), and word of mouth.

For filmmakers, it gave every wannabe director with a video camera, a few bucks and a group of willing friends hope that they, too, could make it to the big leagues. For horror junkies, it was a sign there there was still some fresh ideas left in the genre.

And now, in 2009, we are reaping the rewards of that innovation at the box office with horror outings such as… a re-release of “Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2,” a remake of the 20-year-old “The Stepfather,” and “Saw VI?” Yeah, perhaps not much has changed. But have hope, horror lovers, there are still some options out there for the discriminating fans who wish for just a little more out of their Halloween viewing experience.

paranormalThe first would be a film that seems to be enjoying the same audience-supported, box-office legs as a certain Maryland witch, called “Paranormal Activity.” The similarities to “Blair Witch” don’t end there, as “Paranormal” was also shot with a single digital camera and follows a couple doing battle with an apparent aggravated apparition in their bedroom. The filmmakers have also harnessed the power of the internet to promote the film, and as of Friday, October 9, its site, paranormalmovie.com, has reached its goal of one million requests to expand, and will be taking the film beyond its limited release.

Not that the film is doing poorly in its current 159 theaters (in contrast, last week’s “Couples Retreat” launched in 3,000 theaters). It’s currently in the top five, with a per screen average of about $16,000 (again, by comparison, “Retreat” made about $4,000 per screen). It’s been a long time coming for the film, which was actually made in 2007, and has been hitting the college town circuit pretty hard these past few weeks, garnering good buzz and additional theaters as it powers along.

Ultimately, “Paranormal Activity” will prove just as divisive as “Blair Witch,” between those who enjoy the ride for what it is, and those who fail to see it living up to the almost impossible hype its received. Where it is most effective as a simple, small ghost story, which can be equally as fun to see in a crowded theater as it would be at home with all the lights turned off. It makes the most of its limited budget, but anyone expecting an “Exorcist”-sized fright fest may be a bit let down.

zombielandAlso providing cinematic candy for filmgoers is “Zombieland,” a humorous horror-hybrid that defies the conventional wisdom that the zombie film has been done, pardon the pun, to death. Woody Harrelson looks like he’s having the most fun he’s had on-screen in quite some time, and occasional Cape-area visitor Jesse Eisenberg is a wonderfully nebbish counterpart to Harrelson’s hillbilly hell-raiser. The film is a candy-coated ode to those oft-used carnivorous cadavers, sprinkled with sharp cinematography, inventive makeup effects, and a surprisingly sweet story of the importance of creating a family using what you have.

Additionally, if you have not already heard about the film’s cameo, please do yourself a favor and do not look it up, do not seek it out and just see it for yourself, as it is one of the most fun few minutes on screen this entire year.

tricktreatAnd if you would rather snuggle on the sofa and enjoy the shocks and scares emanating from the safety of your own television, there is another overlooked film that is created specifically for lovers of the holiday, all of its customs, legends, urban legends, films and frivolity. It’s called “Tick ‘r Treat” and, while not perfect, it is certainly created with care, compassion, and slavishly devoted to all things All Hallows Eve.

Weaving four narratives together (only tangentially related), the film stars Dylan Baker and a pre-Sookie Stackhouse Anna Paquin (the film was originally screened in festivals in 2007). And though it never got its deserved wide theatrical release, it is deserving of attention and will undoubtedly satiate those who have grown weary of seeing the same slaughter in a different package at the box office.

Each tale plays out like a cautionary campfire fable – the creepy nice guy next door, children playing pranks getting their comeuppance, uninhibited anonymous hookups, and dark secrets in sleepy suburban towns all bubble to the surface is a compact 90 fright-filled minutes. Even if one tale fails to grab, you can rest assured another is lurking just around a shadowy corner.

So regardless of your hankering for horror this Halloween, one of these films will undoubtedly be a welcome respite from the remake hell at the multiplex.

~ by usesoapfilm on October 12, 2009.

One Response to “Halloween treats”

  1. […] Viral video Even though I have included a Halloween alternatives list for those avoiding the latest crop of Hollywood-produced hype, I feel there is one more that should […]

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