(Fantastic Fest is still going in Austin, Texas, and our intrepid reporter Brian Salisbury is bringing us the highlights of what he's seen at the world's largest festival dedicated to genre movies. For everything else Brian has been up to, check out all of his reports here.)
A young nurse gets assigned to assist invalid elderly patients. She is training under a much more experienced nurse whom she comes to like despite her tendency to shoot off at the mouth. They arrive at the home of a terminally ill woman who used to be a ballet teacher. The seasoned nurse tells the young trainee that the old woman is said to have hidden a treasure somewhere in the house. When the young girl relays this information to her boyfriend later that night, he recognizes an opportunity to achieve the life they’ve always dreamed of by stealing that treasure. But when the two of them, along with another friend, break into the old lady’s house, they find something horrifying waiting for them.
Haunted house movies are a grand tradition in horror, and Livid is among the best I’ve ever seen. The tension builds from the first moment they enter the old, dark house. The use of almost complete shadow in the lighting design was spectacularly eerie. As it progresses, the movie descends further and further into the supernatural and the bizarre. There are elements in this film that are strikingly reminiscent of the work of Dario Argento in terms of both content and photography. There are images in this film that are deeply unsettling, but they aren’t always moments of extreme terror. Some of the smaller, subtle frights provide more than the requisite amount of shivers.
A group of male friends travel to a secluded cabin in the wilderness where they used to vacation as kids. This trip is not simply a weekend getaway. Years before, they experienced a tragedy in which the mother of one of the men committed suicide. Her son Tyler, unable to take the emotional strain of his mother’s death, attacks his friends in a fit of grief. Now, having been released from the psychiatric hospital where he was committed after the incident, Tyler is meeting up with his friends again to mend fences and put the ugliness behind them. What they discover in the woods may drive them all as insane as they believe Tyler to be.
The Corridor is a frustratingly weak film. It starts off promising enough with an interesting concept and a prologue that wastes no time introducing the chaos. But from there, the film begins to slowly fall apart. The otherworldly entity they encounter in the woods is a half-interesting neo sci-fi idea, but at no point is it effectively connected to the stories of these characters. Granted, we don’t necessarily need every little detail explained for us. But when these guys start losing their minds and completely altering who they are immediately after seeing it, it would be nice if we had some clue as to why. The ending is also incredibly pretentious and features lines of dialogue wherein characters actually tell the audience that they aren’t mentally equipped to understand what’s happening.
Paranormal Activity 3
By this point, we are all familiar with the unfortunate tales of Katie and her sister Kristi. These two women were visited by a malevolent spirit who wreaked havoc upon their homes and their lives. This time around, we get the story of their childhood and how the seeds of the tragic events of their adulthood were sewn at a very young age. Their stepfather, a videographer, sets up a few camcorders through the house when Kristi begins behaving erratically and speaking to an imaginary friend named Toby. What the tapes reveal may tear this family apart.
As a big fan of the franchise, I was looking forward to the third installment and was delighted when it was added as a Fantastic Fest secret screening. For a good portion of the film, it was delivering exactly what I was expecting with a few impressive new elements thrown in. There were moments, though very few, that actually utilized still, subtle terror instead of slamming doors in our faces or startling us with falling picture frames. One particular scene wherein the babysitter is visited by a ghost in the kitchen had me cowering behind my hands as they covered my eyes. It is so rare for a mostly desensitized horror fan like me to have that experience any more, and for that I thank Paranormal Activity 3.
But as it progresses, the film starts to lean on the exact same material we’ve seen in the previous films as if it were a crutch. Despite this recycling of content, I was still on board because the film felt like it was going somewhere interesting. Indeed it did take a dark left turn in the third act, which added a whole new layer of terror to the saga of this family. But then the film abruptly ends without adequately exploring the questions raised by the twist. It feels like a film so rushed to achieve a 2011 release date that they forgot to finish the third act. Overall, Paranormal Activity 3 is a frightening disappointment.