A&E » Film

Notes from the Back Row

Paranormal activity and Matt Damon



Hippies are always going on about the four elements and Earth Wind and Fire did have a few decent tracks but my favourite element is the element of surprise. Bet you didn't see that coming.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, movie fans are inundated with information, spoilers, and full clips from a film long before it's released. (And I suppose I'm part of the problem.)

To make things worse, when studios refuse to release preview screenings it's usually because they don't want the critics to see how shitty their product is. Horror movies, though, are the exceptions that prove the rule. Obviously the less you know going in to a horror film, the better - and while this autumn's crop of fright flicks hasn't been strong so far, Paranormal Activity 2, opening this Friday at the Village 8, is banking on the surprise factor - no press screenings, few internet clips.

The first Paranormal Activity was a cleverly marketed homemade ghost story shot in the docu- Blair Witch style that generated a lot of noise last year. I thought it was pretty shitty and anticlimactic, although I watched it at home and that was a film that builds off the audience energy.

The sequel looks better though, and while it milks the same security-cam aesthetic, it appears to have more scares, scarier scares and an at-risk toddler (never a bad callĀ  - kids are creepy by nature and parents have these intrinsic urges to protect them).

More budget can only help the Paranormal Activity franchise but I still get the feeling this one will drag in the not-scary parts, just like the last. Of course, we'll never know until we go, and these days that's rare.

Matt Damon has a local cult following and he's back this week at the Village 8 starring in the Clint Eastwood-directed Hereafter. Eastwood ( Play Misty for Me, Unforgiven ) is a master of American cinema but he's also as old as a Stegosauraus hipbone and by all accounts this non-thriller, about a ho-hum psychic and three people desperate to know about the afterlife, is as flat as day-old cream soda.

The tidal wave scene looks pretty sick though, Eastwood knows his way around a camera and Damon and his co-stars do their best, but the plot is a stretch, the music is total crap and the afterlife is nothing new. Soft focus white death might look cool when you're only a few years away but the rest of us have seen that shit a million times on screen. C'mon Clint - surprise us with some grit and grime and fresh ideas about the sweet hereafter.

Also opening this week, again with no previews or advance screenings, is Score: A Hockey Musical. The title alone makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Musicals suck far more often than not, and there is no dancing in hockey (despite that stupid CBC Battle of the Blades show that everyone's mom loves). All I can tell you is that it's Canadian-made, directed by the guy who made the cross-Canada road trip One Week and that it stars Olivia Newton-John. I have that record form the '70s where she's on the cover rocking the jogging suit and all sweaty but Olivia is 62 this year so I guess we're all in for a surprise.

B-Grade Horrorfest is set for Oct 30. Guaranteed to be some onscreen surprises that night as local thesbians, lesbians, naked dudes and savages all vie for the first annual "Manimal Award for most fearless performance" dedicated to the memory of Erin Solowey-Wanamaker, a fearless actor if ever there was one.