Monday, 14 October 2013

30 Days of Horror | Day 14

Egregious Misuse of the 'Based on True Events' Claim
Paranormal Activity

The list of films that claim to be based upon events that really happened is a long one. If I hadn't already featured it in this challenge The Strangers would be my top choice for today's topic, but instead I've decided to do something a little different. More so than films that claim to be based on real events, I get annoyed by films that actually claim to be real events, and so for today's topic I have chosen the Paranormal Activity films. 

I give the Paranormal Activity franchise a little more credit than most seem to, because I think they are extremely successful in what they do. Even if the plot is becoming more and more convoluted which each release the films have delivered some of the best and most memorable scares of the past few years. Of course that is all just my opinion, and like I said I do go easier on them that a lot of other people, probably because I really loved the first two instalments. What does frustrate me about these films, and many other films of the found-footage phenomenon, is the claim that what we are watching is real. 

The days of gullible film-goers that can be easily kept in the dark are well in the past. Nobody was going to fall for this being actual footage like audiences did with Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project, nor did the marketing team go to the trouble that the filmmakers of the latter did to create a buzz about these 'real' events. All we get is a couple of title cards before or after each film that thank the families for allowing the footage to be shown (as though any of Katie's family are actually still around to give permission) and declaring the police case as still unsolved. It all begs the question; why bother? 

Sure these claims can be a neat gimmick to get a small flick that few people would see that little bit of extra attention, but by the time the first Paranormal Activity was hitting cinemas it was clearly franchise material. If the filmmakers thought for a second that anyone would buy into this claim then they should have kept the cast hidden away in a cave somewhere and destroyed all copied of the alternate endings. 

I know that I'm being a bit of a sourpuss here and I know that these aspects of the films are just 'world building' or whatever, but it is a pet peeve of mine that will not budge. I do really enjoy a lot of what this series offers, I just think that the few seconds of screen-time dedicated to passing these off as real events is a redundant exercise. Spend those few seconds scaring the crap out me with decent fiction, I don't need it to be real to be frightened.

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