Studio: The Asylum
Director: Shane Van Dyke
Writer: Shane Van Dyke
Producer: David Michael Latt, Stephen Fiske
Stars: Shane Van Dyke, Erin Marie Hogan, Fia Perera, Norman Saleet
When an attempt to contact a dead loved one goes wrong, the Finley family finds their home haunted by paranormal activity.
It goes without saying what bigger Hollywood release “Paranormal Entity” means to ride piggyback with its shamelessly similar art, font, plot, title, and everything else. Other than losing a syllable, “Entity” is about as close as a word can come to sounding like “Activity” and still be a sensible noun when trailing the word “Paranormal.” So it’s no wonder that mockbuster specialists extraordinaire The Asylum staked their mitts on the deliberately easy-to-mistake title while Johnny-Come-Lately clones had to settle for leftovers like “Paranormal Incident,” “Paranormal Apparition,” “Paranormal Asylum,” “Paranormal Haunting,” et al.
Thomas and Samantha Finley are a brother and perpetually pouty sister too old to be living with their mother, yet doing it anyway in a conspicuously Spartan house with unfinished doors. Or more like an unfurnished rental property between permanent owners selling itself out to low budget movie productions. In the lone original kernel tucked into the derivative story, this particular supernatural encounter began when mourning mother Ellen tried contacting her recently deceased husband and something else came through instead.
“Paranormal Entity” is best encapsulated in an almost unnoticed moment that comes about a third of the way into the film. Mrs. Finley calls a paranormal investigator for help and leaves a voicemail that concludes with, “thank you Dr. Fin- uh (pause) Lauren.” An actress mistaking her own character’s name for that of the person she is speaking to is not a huge deal, but keeping the flub in the movie is avoidably sloppy.
The scene is meant purely for exposition as it is simply someone reciting into an answering machine. It’s not as if there was some great acting moment captured and the director decided to go with a goofed take to preserve an unrepeatable aspect of the performance. The stumble even occurs after the actress has walked out of frame. The dialogue does not have to match anything occurring onscreen yet no one could be bothered to snip two seconds of audio in post-production. Clearly, there never was a second take to choose from, suggesting a rushed shoot and an assumption that the audience either wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care just because the filmmakers didn’t either.
It’s a careless attitude of doing the bare minimum and nothing more that deadens the entire movie’s pulse. An hour or more of slow build is typical in “found footage,” but “Paranormal Entity” mistakes pointless padding for creeping chills with a number one goal of reaching feature length and passing as horror entertainment a distant second.
The Finley house is tiny. Any average person could walk every interior and exterior square foot in less than two minutes with a stride never elevating above a slow stroll. Thomas takes four times as long to cover the same ground in search of his sister at a pace so slow you would think he was exploring Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu.
The same stretch-it-out mentality goes for a laboriously overlong sequence where Thomas rigs the house with strings and bells to hear when the ghost is coming. Why Thomas films himself securing tripods and checking each lock on every door is one question. Why the supposed police evidence video of the crime scene needs to include that footage is another.
Thomas’ first clue about the paranormal entity comes by way of a note that his possessed mother writes with the single word “maron.” It takes another 16 days before Thomas learns from a paranormal investigator that the word is Germanic for nightmare, a type of entity that attacks women in their sleep. He would have had to pour through quite a few results related to comedian Marc Maron, but in two plus weeks, Thomas never did his own Google research on the only clue he had?
The revelation is pointless anyway. Despite being male, the nightmare entity still attacks the parapsychologist. Maybe there is a reason for this, but it is never shown or explained. Following logic is not the movie’s strong suit. Sensing that the spirit only wants the Finley ladies, Samantha and Ellen spend a night at a motel. While home alone, Thomas has his own ghostly encounter that ends when the ladies come back to say the spirit followed them to the motel and attacked them there. So I guess the entity was in two places at once?
Of the film’s four deaths, two of them occur offscreen and the other two occur in text. A calm conversation with the investigator concludes with a cut to black. A time lapse is inferred, Samantha is heard screaming, and the next shot is of the investigator dead on the floor. His demise makes about as little sense as that of the sister. Samantha is shown caked in blood before hilariously gurgling her last breath offscreen only to be shown again with all the blood smears magically removed.
“Paranormal Entity” is incapable of keeping its own continuity intact for longer than two consecutive scenes. Worse, it could not care less about showing anything meaningfully related to its already bland and thin story. The only thing disregarded more than the material being ripped off is the willingness of an audience to sit through a movie too lazy to stay on the line even when it is just phoning it in.
Review Score: 40