Things to Expect: Home Video Style Filming, Jump Scares, Watching People Sleep
Let’s start with a fun one. Paranormal Activity follows the couple of Katie and Micah, who start experiencing paranormal activity (who would’ve guessed!) around their house and decide to set up cameras to capture the creepy events. Upon reviewing the footage day after day, the two become more convinced that there is a malignant entity in their home and do their best to rid themselves of it.
This film absolutely rocked at the box office. You might hear many people say that the more money you put into a film, the more it should make...
Not in this case! According to Box Office Mojo, the film’s budget was only $15,000, and it grossed a whopping $193,355,800 worldwide. There’s a reason for that, too. The found footage horror subgenre is great at keeping an audience hooked. It mimics reality in a more down to earth way than the majority of other genres through its shaky camera filming and realistic dialogue. It feels personal, and that’s the joy of it. Furthermore, it constantly keeps you on edge and the threat of a jump scare is always present. That being said, unless you’re particularly twitchy when you watch horror films, Paranormal Activity isn’t loaded with unnecessary jump scares like a lot of horror films are. In fact, it balances the tension with scream out loud scares really well whilst also making an effort to tell a story; something else that a lot of horror films give up on.
On the other hand, there is a level of patience that is required with this film. As mentioned in the ‘Things to Expect’ section, be prepared to watch people sleep, go about their daily lives, whilst you wait for something to happen. It’s by no means a slow paced film, but you’ll know within the first thirty minutes if it’s your type of thing.
If you like the paranormal, if you want a fun film to watch with mates to see who screams first, if you like invading people’s personal lives (bit worrisome, but you do you) then this is exactly the film to watch.
Things to Expect: Good Story, Fun Special Effects, Among Us Type Paranoia
What a classic! I was toying with John Carpenter’s Halloween, but for me, The Thing is his better of the two. The Thing revolves around a group of research scientists based in Antarctica who save a dog, not realising that it is a shapeshifting monster. What ensues is a gory (even by today’s standards!) game of whose who as the scientists try to find and kill the monster.
It’s interesting how, nowadays, special effects have become such a large part of the cinematic experience. Every blockbuster seems to pride itself on how realistic they can make their effects. Almost as if a dodgy effect might completely ruin the viewer’s immersion in the film’s narrative.
Even though it was made in the 80s, that’s not the case with The Thing.
Often when people mention special effects in films from the 80s, it’s generally regarding how completely ridiculous they look by comparison to today’s standards. It’s true that the special effects in The Thing are crazy and completely unrealistic, but they are also insanely entertaining. With all the crazy transformations and gory moments that occur in this film, they are executed in such a creative way that even today in 2021, you end up marvelling at the things they were able to do sixty years ago.
It’s also helped by the story and the total paranoia felt throughout the film. My brief summary of the film earlier may have reminded you of the hit game Among Us, and there’s no doubt that it was inspired to some degree by The Thing. Those of you who have played Among Us know how fun it is to argue with your mates over whom you think the killer is. With everyone’s characters looking the same, as you go around doing tasks, there is always an exciting fear that as you pass other players, they could turn around and kill you. That paranoid fun is exactly the viewing experience you get whilst watching The Thing. It’s by no means a scary film, and can feel more like a murder mystery at times thanks to the terrific shapeshifting concept. (Oh, that reminds me. If you’re a dog lover… just be warned).
If you’re ever looking for a horror film with a really gripping plot and visuals that aren’t too scary, this could absolutely be your cup of tea.
Things to Expect: Unnerving Atmosphere, Brutal Gore, A ‘WTF Am I Watching’ Feeling
Now for the complete opposite. Midsommar is one of the most unique, jarring viewing experiences you’ll have. Traumatised after her sister’s murder suicide, Dani is reluctantly invited by her boyfriend to go travelling with him and a group of friends to Sweden to attend a midsummer festival in a remote commune. After witnessing several of the commune’s rituals, the group of travellers grows uneasy, unsure of their fates.
The thing I love most about this film is the challenge of it from a creator’s point of view.
How do you make a horror film in broad daylight?
It’s unconventional to say the least, and that’s why this film is relentless in its pursuit of creating unease within the viewer and does so through all the cinematic elements. From the twisted story to the warped visuals to the distorted sound to the constantly moving cinematography, everything is working in unison to create this unsettling feeling. Even the title! The intentional misspelling of Midsommar is your first warning that this film is going to throw some crazy sh*t your way and you better be ready for it.
Likewise, this isn’t a film for the faint-hearted or squeamish. Those of you who have seen Ari Aster’s other film Hereditary know he’s not shy when it comes to gore, and a large part of this film is how the gruesome rituals are treated as the norm by the natives of the commune. This isn’t blood spurting gore. This is bone crunching, face ripping gore. Literally.
This is the one film on this list that I wouldn’t call traditionally ‘fun’. If you’re watching this in a group, there won’t be laughs at over the top acting or jump scares like you get in many horror films, more likely there’ll be nervous laughs as you all ask yourselves ‘what and why are we watching this?’ For anyone that loves a disturbing story and doesn’t mind seeing graphic gore, this is absolutely an experience you should go through.
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