The parody movie genre has taken a real beating over the last decade thanks in no small part to the efforts of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. After offering up a few laughs as writers of the first few entries of the Scary Movie franchise, they went on to bigger (but not better) things by co-writing and co-directing some of the most painfully unfunny excuses for comedy that I've ever witnessed (Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans...I'm looking at you).
It may seem unfair to drag Friedberg and Seltzer into any discussion of Supernatural Activity since they had nothing to do with this movie. However, a glance at the film's tagline 'From none of the creators of Scary Movie' shows that director Derek Lee Nixon and writer Andrew Pozza are comfortable with the comparison, the assumption being that their low-budget comedy is superior to Friedberg and Seltzer's glossier dreck. I hate to break it to them but the results don't bear that out.
It's sort of pointless to describe the plot of a movie like this since the story is just a weak clothesline on which to hang disjointed sequences cherry-picked from other (better) films. In this case, the genre of choice is horror with Nixon and Pozza taking shots at found-footage flicks, both recent (Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism) and not-so-recent (Blair Witch Project) as well as ghost-busting paranormal reality shows. Pozza stars as Damon, the leader of a team of paranormal investigators on a TV show called Supernatural Activity. His team also includes the psychic ex-stripper Blair (Liddy Bisanz), blonde heartthrob Brock (Donny Boaz), cameraman Doug (Devin Bonnee) and guns-and-ammo lovin' hick Pepper (Joey Oglesby).
The film is presented as the footage of a documentarian Tuck Thomas (Philip Marlatt) who follows the Supernatural Activity team into Hickville, TX on their quest for a yeti-demon called the Smallsquatch. Once the team arrives in Hickville, they split up so that Blair, Doug and Pepper can track the creature while Damon and Brock help a couple (Liz Waters And Tim Ogletree) with a small poltergeist problem they've been having. Tacked onto all of this is a possessed little girl who needs Damon's assistance to be freed from the demon that has taken control of her.
As you can see, the plot is quite silly and more than a little forced in order to maximize the number of movie / pop culture references that can be crammed into the film's running time. Besides the obvious horror movies that I mentioned earlier, we get gags based on sources as diverse as Inception, Tropic Thunder, MTV Cribs (?!), Lost (?!!) and Christian Bale's infamous meltdown. As much as Nixon and Pozza may try to distance themselves, this style of parody is right out of Friedberg/Seltzer's playbook. It operates on the deeply flawed belief that if you throw enough familiar references at the audience, then you don't have to do anything funny or interesting with them.
Thankfully, the scattershot pop culture references don't overwhelm the film as the focus usually drifts back to the horror movies that are being parodied. At that point, it becomes a question of whether the source material is juicy enough to provide new laughs. At least in the case of the Blair Witch Project, the answer is a resounding No. That film has been around long enough and parodied so many times that there just isn't much that can be done to subvert it with originality. This turns a significant portion of the film into dead space as Blair, Doug and Pepper are sent off into comedically barren terrain.
Damon and Brock are given a bit more to work with as they handle scenarios from Paranormal Activity and The Last Exorcism. While this means that the setups have more novelty, the uncertainty of their execution finds too many of the gags missing their mark. For an example of this, look at the sťance scene partway through the film. It starts off with promise, lands a few laughs and then unravels as Pozza decides to ham it up to a level that would make Jim Carrey blush. To make matters worse, the scene keeps going and going long after you've figured out that it isn't going to dig any laughs out of you.
The performances are functional and nothing more. Pozza stands out, for both the right and the wrong reasons. I've already mentioned his tendency to chew the scenery but I must give credit to him where it's due. He often sets the tone for scenes that vacillate between the dramatic and the comedic (like his love story with Blair). Perhaps he simply has a better understanding of his own script. This spark of self-awareness gives me hope that Pozza and Nixon might be able to tighten their focus and set their sights a little higher if they should ever work together again.