Around the same time that Oren Peli was setting up a camcorder it two wannabe actor's bedroom, the better to film their supposedly shocking story of haunting and demonic possession, director Alec Tuckman was working on his own indie fright flick. With a significantly bigger budget than what would end up becoming Paranormal Activity, he crafted a tale about an occult obsessed movie producer, his semi-interested gal pal, and a family that moves into their home post-tragedy. Yep, this is one of those the-cheaply-priced-mansion-with-a-pool-and-a-guest-house-is-so-inexpensive-because-somebody-DIED-there plots, with some unusual twists and turns along the way. Originally released as Cold Blood Canyon, it came and went with little notice. Now, a new DVD distributor, hoping to cash in on the popularity of Peli stop-now-before-we-sequelize-again series has re-titled the film Paranormal Apparition and has even gone so far as to mimic those other movies with cover art suggesting a similar 80 minutes of boredom followed by five minutes of BOO! Luckily, it surpasses PA1 in style and scares.
The Myers clan, including troubled teen daughter Danielle (Lulu Budd) are looking for a new home near Beverly Hills. As luck would have it, the home of a famous Hollywood producer has just gone onto the market and it's a steal. It has a pool and a guest house and can be bought for a song. Why? Well, it seems that the Tinseltown tycoon went loco one night and strangled his lady to death. Since then, the mansion has been the subject of scandal and tabloid speculation. When they first move in, Mr. and Mrs. Myers find nothing wrong with their new living quarters. Danielle, on the other hand, believes she is being stalked by the ghost of the killer's victim, and she confides same to her best friend. She then visits a Goth book shop to get some research, and even seeks out the murderer himself. Eventually, the truth is discovered - the producer was looking for a way to live forever, and body switching/soul jumping may be the answer...and Danielle may be the next target.
At first, Paranormal Apparition has a lot in common with Paranormal Activity...too much in common. Both movies drag out their denouements in long, laborious takes, hoping that occasional noises and partially glimpsed spooks will set the hairs on the back of our neck on end. Instead, all they do is make our butt ache from sitting through such schlock. Tuckman tries to enliven things, but bad post-production effects and a lack of legitimate fear hobble his horror. With the distributors desire to tie everything into the found footage phenomenon from 2007 (which didn't see a national release until 2009) we expect that things will continue on this dull, dreary path until a viewfinder finalizes our tedium. But then, a miracle happens. Paranormal Apparition turns from a silly, sloppy ghost story into a weird, almost surreal tale of power players, voodoo, body swapping, and soul snatching. The last 20 minutes almost make up for the noxious nothing that came before. Almost. Paranormal Apparition is still a slight horror film, but at least Tuckman shows more chutzpah than a certain point and shoot practitioner.
That being said, this is still a pretty weak effort. The acting is at pre-scenery chewing levels, everyone just a bit over-amplified for the tone the movie is reaching for. Others, like Danielle step-dad or the Goth book store kid are so over the top that they practically given their purpose away. We get a random love interest that doesn't work, a best pal who wants to play the paparazzi, and a lot of ancillary nonsense. Thankfully, the story doesn't stay focused on the spirit world stuff for very long, but Tuckman clearly wants to avoid any lavish F/X or long shots. This is a movie made in near close-up, with only rare glimpses of things in medium or larger composition. The dialogue is also kind of dopey, though it's not as bad as some horror movies have to offer. Overall, Paranormal Apparition was not the Asylum level slight its being marketed as. In fact, it has more in common with something like Dead Again than any single person POV spook show.
You gotta give the DVD distributor credit. Who would want to see something entitled Cold Blood Canyon (that title makes about as much sense as Paranormal Apparition)? With the rename comes a standard widescreen image, the 1.78:1 print practically reeking of under budgeted production values. Still, the colors are good, the film is in focus, and there's some nice moments of middling horror here and there. As for the sonic situation, we are dealing with Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 and its decent. There's little dynamic range, but at least the conversations are clear. As for added content, it's trailer time. We get one for this film, and some for a few others. That's it.
Paranormal Apparition is a cut above other films following a same scary movie idea. It's not necessarily good, but it won't grate on your nerves like a group of bumbling wannabe documentarians running around the Maryland woods lobbing F-bombs at each other. Earning an easy Rent It, this is for the more adventurous, less discerning fright fan. Go in expecting genius and you'll be sadly disappointed. Walk in wondering if it will be as lame as a couple trying to capture some spooky stuff on their video camera while they are sleeping and you'll be rewarded with something a step above...a single step above.
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