What happens when an average suburban home is built atop the charred remains of a 1970’s brothel? What do you do when lusty spirits invade your quiet, no nonsense life? Paranormal Calamity! Starring Larry Thomas (Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi) Charlene Tilton (Dallas) Michael Wexler, Jennifer Schmidt and James Vallo
As most horror fans are well aware, found footage films are currently a very hot trend in the genre. For the most part, they are cheap to produce and therefore are very attractive endeavors for beginning filmmakers who want to have at least a slight opportunity for their film to make money. And of course, when something is hot, it becomes fair game for filmmakers without much creativity of their own to copy it. For instance, look up how many direct to video films have been released in the last few years with the word Paranormal in the title. Paranormal Entity. Paranormal Incident. And oh, look: another one. Paranormal Calamity.
First and foremost, it is important to disclose that Paranormal Calamity is not horror film. It is no more a horror film than Scary Movie, Airplane or Naked Gun are horror films. Instead, it is apparently supposed to be a comedy, though the laughs are extremely lacking and the overt, albeit corny and tame, sexual content make it play more like a late night soft core p*rno. The plot—and I use that term loosely—centers around a couple who begin to experience some strange occurrences in their usually peaceful suburban neighborhood. The wife, who is extremely moody and unlikable, is concerned about strange dreams she is having and has the sensation she is sleepwalking in the middle of the night. As a result, the husband sets up a video camera in their bedroom in order to discover and document just what is going on with his wife at night. Needless to say, they get more than they bargained for when the camera records all sorts of mischief, including the wife’s affair with her personal trainer and, of course, ghostly activity. It seems that their house was built on the ground of a brothel that tragically burned down years before and now the restless whore spirits are wreaking havoc during the evening hours.
Paranormal Calamity is a blatant and desperate attempt to cash in a very successful franchise. It follows the plot of the first Paranormal Activity to a tee without the benefit of feel fresh, original, or interesting. The characters, particularly the wife, are extremely unlikeable and though meant to be a spoof, there truly is nothing funny at all in the film. Certainly the filmmaker thought that having the husband fall in love with the spirit of a hooker would be cause for major laughs, but instead the scenes of him professing his love to her are corny.
And while the film looks good and is competently directed, it is missing a key ingredient to make even moderately interesting; an engaging plot. Simply ripping off the plot of another film, but throwing in some nudity and humor is not enough to make the film something rather than a blatant rip off. Scary Movie basically ripped the plot of Scream off, but at least it had talented writers who could actually pull off a parody with relevant, original jokes and clever winks at the genre. This film tries too hard to mimic its inspiration instead of truly paying homage to it with a worthy parody. And did I mention it isn’t a horror movie?
Because the film is competently put together, it will be interesting to see what the director can come up with in the future. While parodies may not be his thing, he does show enough skill to pull something off that is original and interesting. Unfortunately, Paranormal Calamity will probably not get him much recognition in the horror community.
Paranormal Calamity (2010)