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Notes from the Back Row

Fear the sequels...



I love horror movies. So do a lot of people. But perhaps we have only ourselves to blame for all the sequels and remakes being pumped into our eyeholes these days. Would Hollywood insist on financing so many garbage films with "built-in audiences" if we hadn't spent most of the '80s and '90s returning to the theatre again and again to see the latest exploits of Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers? Those three guys have over 30 sequels between them (Jason: 12, Freddy: nine, Michael: 10).

From Jaws to The Exorcist to the classic Frankenstein of the '30s and '40s (Frank had seven sequels/crossovers himself) horror movies kind of set the standard that Hollywood lives by today - if it works once, milk it. If it works twice it will work five times, so milk it harder. That's how we got seven of those Saw movies.

And so this week Paranormal Activity 3 opens at both the Whistler Village 8 and the Garibaldi 5 in Squamish. The first Paranormal Activity , released just two years ago, was that super-low budget, ultra-hyped, Blair Witch- style camcorder ghost flick about a young couple living in a haunted house. I found it boring but admired that filmmaker Orin Peli had made a feature movie for $11,000 and pulled in over $7 million, proof that a unique idea still has a chance and independent filmmaking is not dead. (The studios then jumped on board and it took only a year for Paranormal Activity 2 to drop).

This time around directors Henry Joost and Ari Schulman (the guys who made Catfish) offer a prequel to the other films, focusing on some childhood VHS tapes that take us into the '80s and reveal the creepy history of the two sisters from the first movies.

Yes, it's more of the same but Paranormal Activity 3 does the franchise justice with loads of tension, some humour, decent characters (so we actually give a shit) and some nifty, legitimate scares. A video-cam mounted on a rotating fan that endlessly pans into and away from terror is one standout moment. If you didn't hate either of its predecessors this is worth checking out. (But if you do you can bet there will be another Paranormal Activity next year).

The other sequel hitting the screens this week is Johnny English Reborn . Ring any bells? No? That's because 2003's original, a Bond -spoof staring Mr. Bean's Rowan Atkinson, was appallingly bad (but it grossed over $160 million so here we go again.)

Reborn is said to be somewhat better than its predecessor but I wouldn't know - Mr. Bean and his antiquated Keaton-esque physical comedy has never interested me and I'm not paying for this. However, the artistic high point of this is apparently a scene where Bean gets repeatedly kicked in the nuts on top of a Tibetan mountain so maybe I'm missing out

The last flick, opening in Whistler only (in 2D), is yet another retreading of a cinematic staple - The Three Musketeers. This one was made in Europe and as such looks welcomingly different than how they do it over here. Director Paul W.S. Anderson ( Resident Evil, Death Race remake) updates the action, effects, explosions, and spends a lot of time focusing on the men's clothing of the era. The costumes, set design, swordplay and production values are all super well done.

It's the story, characterization, theme and intelligence that lags. Does that matter? Do you need a cerebral swashbuckling film? Or would you rather just see some throats get slashed? Well, you get neither with this Three Musketeers because it's PG-13. But it has Milla Jovovich. And that's enough for me.



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