Blumhouse and the Death of Modern Horror
Cast your mind back to 2009 when a tiny horror movie on a shoestring budget of $15,000 named Paranormal Activity shocked the film world by making over $190 million through an ingenious marketing campaign and going on to become the most profitable film of all time. The original was an incredible success and a welcome spin on the horror formula but no-one could have predicted the impact it would have on the genre.
Skip forward to now and producers of the original movie Blumhouse Productions have overseen the creation of five more Paranormal Activity films, turning them into almost yearly releases. By completely over-saturating the series of the original, the studio have completely lost touch with the reason why the first movie was such a success.
Found footage was still relatively untouched, having been first made famous by the Blair Witch Project way back in 1999, and the idea of a CCTV style/camcorder film had never been done before. The fact that the spirits that tormented the lives of young couple Micah and Katie were never actually seen heightened the unsettling atmosphere to unbearably tense levels.
By the time Paranormal Activity 2 came around a year later, the idea already felt stale and rehashed just to leech off the huge box office success of the original. The found footage format has also now become so over-used that vile films like Shyamalan's The Visit have resorted to using it with no added benefit whatsoever.
For Blumhouse, horror was clearly the area to focus their efforts on, with the notable exception being the fantastic Oscar winning Whiplash. Over the next few years, they churned out dozens of similar style films including Insidious, Sinister and The Purge. All of these have had at least one sequel and made huge profit, defying the varied critical receptions. In fairness, these were all pretty unique concepts but were all spoiled by the money oriented Blumhouse who attempted to “franchise” them all.
When it appeared that audiences had begun to cotton on to the fact that Paranormal Activity and Insidious were running out of ideas, with both series gradually taking in less money, the latest installments of each resorted to the idea of revealing “the activity.” By entering into the supernatural dimension, both series have spoiled the illusion. As Jacques Tourneur, the French famous director known for similarly low budget works, believed, “The less you see, the more you believe.” This idea of “revealing what was behind the curtain” was also recently used in the remake (that no-one wanted) of Poltergeist which detracted from the mysterious and unexplained nature that made much of the original so terrifying and well executed.
If any more evidence is needed to show how Paranormal Activity and in fact the majority of Blumhouse’s output is now growing increasingly stale (the one exception from recent releases like Ouija and The Gallows being Joel Edgerton’s surprisingly gripping thriller The Gift), it is that Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is being released in 3D. If there’s one concept more painfully unwatchable and clearly ineffectual than repetitive plots and directorial gimmicks, it's the idea of sticking dark glasses in front of your eyes and believing it will improve your horror movie experience in any way. Trust me, it won’t.