Posts Tagged ‘Paranormal Activity’

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how Hollywood is coming to see big horror films are, and that they are looking into making more. It’s even been compared to the explosion of superhero films that came about after the Dark Knight trilogy and Iron Man showed how popular and profitable superhero films could be. Since I am a horror fan in addition to a horror writer, I thought I’d weigh in on the subject.

First off, this explosion in horror is not exactly out of the blue. Studios have been making horror films since the early days of film, and they keep making them every year. There’s obviously always been an interest and a profit to be made in horror. It’s just lately we’ve had a slew of horror films that have shown studios and audiences that horror can be extremely profitable, mainstream, and even deeply thematic. We actually first started seeing this trend years ago with films like the Paranormal Activity series, which kicked off a huge fad of found-footage horror films, and with Blumhouse Productions, which proved you can make horror films cheaply and still have critical and box office success. This is especially so with their Conjuring film series, which in itself is a cinematic universe.

But late 2016 and 2017 brought on a slew of horror films that really brought these points home. Split, with its surprise ending technically making it a superhero film, and Get Out, with its commentary on race on par with some Oscar-nominated films, brought horror into the mainstream in new ways. Later in 2017, Annabelle: Creation and It proved massively successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and in 2018, films like A Quiet Place are raking in the dough and proving how powerful horror can be in creating terrifying atmospheres and emotional narratives.

And this is just scratching the surface: Stephen King stories are being optioned at record rates (where’s my adaptation of The Library Policeman?); some of Netflix’s biggest recent original films have been horror movies; and studios are developing more horror movies than ever before. It: Chapter Two starts filming this summer, and a new Halloween film is getting released this year. So while I may say yes, horror is kind of the new superhero film, it’s not because they suddenly became profitable. The potential has always been there, it just took some very specific successes with deeper cultural resonance to really bring that potential to the attention of studio heads.

Remember, don’t do what The Mummy did. Not if you want your horror movie to actually be successful, let alone spawn a franchise.

So yes, the horror genre may be the new superhero film, with every studio wanting its own successful films, film series, or film universe. But to steal a superhero film quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So while I have no pretensions that studio heads or directors or writers or whatever will see this post, let alone take its message to heart, I thought I’d offer some advice advice on getting into this horror boom. After all, as a horror fan and a creator, I want the horror boom to continue. The more good horror out there, the better. So here are some of my ideas for ways to make sure the boom doesn’t fizzle out:

  • Focus on telling a good scary story. This seems obvious, but some companies get so caught up in having a successful film or franchise, they forget to make a good horror film. Remember last year’s The Mummy? That film was convoluted, packed to the brim, and not at all scary. Not a good start for a film that was supposed to be the launching point for an entire cinematic horror universe. Which was the problem: Universal was so concerned with getting their franchise off the ground, they forgot what let Iron Man get the MCU off the ground: a good film in and of itself. If Iron Man had not led to the MCU, it still would’ve been an excellent superhero film. The Mummy should’ve been made that way, but unfortunately, it wasn’t, and now the Dark Universe is sunk.
    So remember kids, focus on a good story first, franchise a distant second. At least said franchise is up and running, of course.
  • Take chances on new/indie directors and stories. A lot of great horror films have come from the indie scene and/or from new/emerging directors. It Follows and Babadook were both very successful horror films from directors with less than three films under their belts, and the former was from the indie scene. Get Out was from Jordan Peele, who had never done a horror film before in his life.
    And all these stories are original plots. In an age where every other movie is a sequel, remake, or some variation on a familiar story or trend, adding something new to the horror canon has the ability to draw in a diverse audience, rather than just the smaller audience of devoted fans and some possible new ones.
    So take a few risks. It could lead to some big returns.
  • Adapt more than just Stephen King. Yeah, I’m happy for the many Stephen King adaptations being made (Library Policeman movie, please?). But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Even his Royal Scariness: I got sick of him back in high school because I read too much King and had to take a break for a few years. I still make sure to space out my dives into his stories nowadays. And if that could happen to me with his books, imagine what it could do to audiences with too many of his movies.
    The point is, there are a number of horror writers out there whose works should be adapted. Scott Thomas’s Kill Creek is one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year; Ania Ahlborn’s Within These Walls would make a great Blumhouse movie; Junji Ito has plenty of stories that could make great films; and as I noted in a previous post, HP Lovecraft is in the public domain and would make for great cinema. It’s something to consider.
    And before you ask, “What about your works, Rami?” I would be flattered if someone showed interest in adapting one of my stories. However, I don’t think that’s a possibility at this stage of my career, so I’m not going to get my hopes up. Still, I’d be flattered.

Horror is finally being given the attention it deserves from Hollywood, and I couldn’t be happier for it. However, it’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of good stories, for horror to continue to thrive. I hope that filmmakers old and new are up to the task.

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I have never lived in a haunted house, as much fun as that would be. I have experienced paranormal activity (the hand!) and I stayed in a bed and breakfast at one point that I’m pretty sure had a few spirits in it (that door didn’t close on its own, I’m pretty sure of that!). But I would really love to live in a haunted house, provided the spirits sharing space with me were friendly.

However, I know that most people would prefer that their homes were spirit-free and if they move into a genuinely haunted house, they may not know what to do when such things occur. And since there’s only so many articles on the Internet about what to do if you move into a haunted house, I thought I’d add my two cents. So here’s what I say:

First, are you sure it’s haunted? Creaky sounds, cold drafts of air, a feeling of being watched. These could be signs of a haunting…or it could be an old house settling down and your own paranoia. Lots of times people think their house is haunted, but it’s actually just reasonable explanations. For example, a lot of times when people wake up, unable to move and see a figure standing over them, it’s more likely a condition called sleep paralysis, in which the body is interrupted by REM sleep and wakes up still dreaming, which is why you can’t move (lest you try to fly in real life while dreaming you can fly) and why you think someone is in your room.

So if you think your house is haunted, make sure that it’s not just problems with your old house or something normal causing problems before you call the Ghostbusters. Other common signs of hauntings include shadow figures or apparitions, voices that seem to come from nowhere, balls of light with no discernible source, mysterious footsteps or bangs, objects moving on their own, etc. This leads to our next topic:

Confirming you have a haunting. The wonderful thing about the modern age we live is that with the right tools, you can do just about anything. If you’re sure your house is haunted or you can’t find anything normal to pin the strange happenings on, there are numerous ways to get a better lay of the land, so to speak. One would be to consult paranormal research groups in your area. Reputable ones won’t charge you to investigate the house (I wouldn’t use psychics or mediums though, because there are a lot of frauds out there and they’ll tell you what you want to hear for a fee). Another thing to do would be to research the house’s history, see if any deaths (including violent ones) or any other odd happenings in its time. Ghosts have to come from somewhere, right?

All the better to catch crazy stuff like this.

And if you have the means to do so, you can go full Paranormal Activity, putting cameras around the residence so you can catch anything odd whenever it happens. Of course that means someone has to review all the footage, but them’s the breaks.

And if you do confirm you have a spirit in the house, there are several things you can do.

But first, don’t be afraid! God forbid it’s a malevolent spirit, it will latch onto that fear and use it to make your life hell. So remain strong and don’t let what’s going on get you down. If that’s happen, you can choose from several options on what to do next.

For example, you can live with it. Most spirits don’t realize they’re dead, or they do and they’re just looking for a connection with the living. Normally they’re also harmless, so all you have to do is say you acknowledge that there’s a spirit living in the house and that should be the basis for a good relationship. If you have any idea of its identity, I’m sure the spirit would appreciate it if you played music from its era or had objects around that it would find familiar. Like I said, all it wants is a connection.

Or you can ask it to go away. Strange as it seems, one article I read before writing this one claimed that if you ask a spirit with a firm voice to leave, it will. Or at the very least the ghostly hauntings will calm down a bit. No guarantee it’ll work, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Of course if it does continue to happen no matter what you do and you can’t exactly move, you might as well live with it. Unless of course…

One of these in your house? Get an exorcist or get the f@&k out!

It’s malevolent or demonic. In which case I think you should call an exorcist or look into some purification rituals. Yes, there are exorcists and purification rituals do exist. Call your local religious organization and see what they can do. And if that doesn’t work out, you might want to get the heck out of Dodge, because no one wants to be near a dangerous spirit.

What’s your take on living with spirits? Do you have any tips?

Do you believe in spirits? Do you think I’m crazy?

If yes, I’m not sure I want to hear your opinions.

Remember this famous scene?

Or close to that amount, anyway. And by the way, if you enjoy found footage horror movies and don’t want me to spoil them, you might want to just leave this post. Trust me, you’ll thank me in the long run.

The other day I had an idea for a found footage horror movie. There’s been a lot of them in theatres lately, including Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Chronicle, and Entity, just to name a few. I remember when Paranormal Activity came out, how it was such a big deal and how even people who weren’t fans of horror were holding huge conversations and spirited debates on it. I saw the commercials of people lined up around theaters to see it, and I remember some friends of mine telling me how they went to see it, and near the end one of them got up and started shouting, “I’m a bitch! I’m a bitch! Get me out of here!” I was so mad that I had to wait till it came out on DVD to see it (those were the days when I had to rely on my parents if I wanted to go see a movie in theaters, and they only took us if it was a film the whole family could watch. Guess how many of those were horror films? That would be none).

Anyway, I realized then that there are a lot of similarities between found footage films, at least the popular ones that make it into the theatres. The most glaringly obvious (besides the method of filming, of course) is in terms of plot:

  1. Characters become aware that there is something supernatural going on and resolve to investigate. We may also be informed that the footage we are about to watch was found after a certain amount of time, usually after the deaths or disappearances of the characters.
  2. Characters investigate, and start to realize that there is something strange going on.
  3. The strange events escalate, becoming more and more sinister in nature.
  4. The characters start to get anxious or angry and start fighting among themselves.
  5. The strange events reach a zenith, during which time the terror is (hopefully) very high and most, if not all of the characters die off.
  6. The film ends, and we now know why the characters have disappeared and only the cameras and film were found.

In addition, most found footage films are made very cheaply (Paranormal Activity was made on $15K and Blair Witch Project was made on $20K to $25K, while major horror films like The Conjuring and Sinister were made for 20 million and 3 million, respectively). And for some reason, the characters always have their cameras on and holding them up to get the footage, even in awkward situations. We as the audience either forget that most people, even filmmakers, wouldn’t place such emphasis on getting everything while our lives are in danger or we just overlook it. Also, there tends to not be title cards or opening or end credits. None at all. Helps to make it seem like these events actually happened, I guess. Oh, and also the characters tend to be isolated somehow. Whether they’re trapped in their house or lost in the woods or in an abandoned factory in the middle of nowhere, they’re cut off and there’s no knight in shining armor to come to their rescue. They are alone, and it’ll be their undoing.

Look out behind you!

But yeah, that’s basically most found footage films out there.

So if these films are so similar, especially in terms of plot, why do horror filmmakers keep making them and why do horror fans keep going to see them? Well, I guess it has to do with the execution. These sort of films may be as predictable as your run-of-the-mill romance novel, but there’s so much room to experiment and try to new things. And even if you have a basic idea of how the plot is going to go, you don’t know what will be behind the corner or what will jump out and terrify you. You can’t know, so if the movie’s any good, you’ll sit on the edge of your seat wondering what the heck will happen next, and screaming when it does.

So with all that in mind, could I possibly make this found footage film I came up with myself? quite possibly. I plan on buying a video camera after I get back from my study abroad trip, so it wouldn’t be inconceivable to make a film. I’d just need a little funding, a cast and crew, and a location. Plus the time to do it and some marketing. It could possibly happen. I even have a title in mind: The Red Monk. Good title, right?

Well, if the opportunity comes along, I’d love to do it. And you never know what could happen. It could be a very big thing.

What do you think of found footage films? Love them or hate them? Do you think they’re a bit predictable?

If I did make a film, would you see it? Would you even want to be part of it?