*Disclaimer!* I wrote a handful of articles for a now defunct e-zine called BthroughZ a number of years back, and when that site went belly up, so did the reviews I wrote for it. I didn’t want to lose the articles I worked so hard to write, so here I am, reposting them here, in all their imperfection, for your mild enjoyment.
With what The Asylum is known for as a film studio - which is to take something that is successful and make a cheap carbon copy of it - Paranormal Activity must have been like finding the Lost Ark for the infamous movie company. Here is a film that only cost around 15k to make, far less than many of the films that The Asylum have taken from previously, which are generally summer blockbusters with budgets higher than a pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.
Paranormal Entity is The Asylum's answer to Paranormal Activity, but from what I gather the budget was quite a bit higher than the 2009 sleeper hit, though, still much lower than the usual Asylum fare. More money doesn't necessarily mean better quality, but it does result in enough cash to get the hot chick in the film to show her breasts more than a handful of times. Still, while being far from perfect, Paranormal Entity is a surprisingly passable and sometimes even effective entry into the Cinéma vérité horror genre.
Paranormal Entity's focus is placed on the Finley’s, a family that is dealing with the recent lose of their father, something that has resulted in the widowed Ellen (Fia Perera) trying to communicate with her recently deceased husband. Surprisingly, Ellen gets a response, but it quickly becomes apparent that the spirit she is in contact with is not that of her late husband. What starts as a small haunting quickly becomes increasingly dangerous as each day passes, with much of the spirit's attention being placed on Ellen's daughter, Samantha (Erin Marie Hogan).
As is the case with many films of this genre, a character feels the need to try to capture all of these unnatural occurrences on tape, and that someone would be the son of the family, Thomas. Thomas sets up cameras in all three of the bedrooms as well as one in the living room in the hopes of capturing some “paranormal activity.” From that point forward, Paranormal Entity delivers everything one would expect from a low level P.A. cash-in: crosses fall off walls, sheets are pulled off of a conveniently half naked Samantha, doors slam shut, lights flicker, and the Finley family becomes increasingly frightened for their physical safety as things escalate.
While there was more money invested into Paranormal Entity, the decision to keep things minimal was the right way to go as far as recreating a film similar to the one that came to influence it. There are only three thinly-written characters (with a fourth introduced in the final act), with one of them being played by the writer, producer and director of Paranormal Entity, Shane van Dyke. This is a movie that is made in the same 'spirit' (see what I did just there?) as Paranormal Activity, but the results are mixed, showing that what Peli did was one part achievable by anyone with a camera and a buck, while another part proves that those results aren't so easily attainable by just any average Joe filmmaker.
While Paranormal Entity cannot fully deliver what its more respected brethren have, there are a few moments worthy of a solid little jolt. There’s a fair amount of static camerawork on display, which forces an automatic sense of fear and curiosity as it’s hard not to watch every little detail of each room, just waiting for something spooky to happen. The haunting moments themselves are far from stellar and can easily be done by any old schmuck with a camera and a dream. Lights flickering and TVs turning on aren't difficult things to achieve, and neither is the before mentioned covers being pulled off of Samantha, which was hysterically achieved by a very obvious fishing line.
One of the big issues with Paranormal Entity, and with many films of the genre, is it has some serious downtime when there aren't any 'happenings' happening. The characters aren't all too interesting, or even likable for that matter, and there are long moments where things go down the lonely path of boring. There is a portion of Paranormal Entity where Ellen and Samantha leave their home to stay at a hotel, far from the threat of the evil presence that is plaguing them. When they leave, Thomas proceeds to spend a good (well, not literally good) fifteen minutes setting up their house with camera equipment to see if the entity will make an appearance in the absence of his mother and sister. To say this scene is boring and overly drawn out would be like claiming genital warts are not a good look.
Paranormal Entity is pretty straightforward for much of the first half. However, as the runtime ran down, exploitational elements are slowly introduced. This aspect of the film mostly involves the Samantha character, who is clearly threatened in a sexual manner by this unseen menace. As those elements become more prevalent, it also became obvious that this is an Asylum movie. Which is fine, everything needs its place, and I don't mind that place being on my TV from time to time. Nevertheless, Paranormal Entity did, at times, have a good chance at being a contender. In the end, however, the true colors shined through and kept it from fully leaving the playground in which the rest of The Asylum movies normally play.