Notes from the back row 

Paranormal frights

The Hot-Chick-with-a-Gun movie of the week is Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez's contribution to 2007's Grindhouse. Granted, Rose McGowan, post Marilyn Manson relationship, could be considered "damaged" as much as "hot" but she's still got that look in her eye and a machine gun for a leg, so you can't beat that.

The funny thing about Grindhouse is that nobody went to see it. A double-feature tribute to the B-Grade movie experience directed by two of America's better-known auteurs made about $11 million on its opening weekend and only $25 million in theatres. Not bad, but far less than its $53 million budget requires. To put things in perspective, Are We Done Yet? the kid-numbingly stupid Ice Cube sequel to the crappy, Are We There Yet?  Pulled in way more cash at the turnstiles.

Of course, DVD sales made up the rest of the Grindhouse budget so it ended up in the black but the fact remains that good taste is dead. (Whereas Bad Taste, Peter Jackson's first flick - a fantastic B-Grade Alien-Splatter-Sci-Fi where a guy keeps his brains in his cracked-opened head by just putting on a hat - is amazing and is the DVD of the week.)

While individual B-Grade flicks may not be competing financially these days, the genre continues to be a breeding ground for some of film's most celebrated actors and innovative directors and every once in a while a low-budget film comes out that blows minds AND makes a bunch of money. From the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Blair Witch Project and now Paranormal Activity which opens Friday at the Village 8.

Filmed for just $11,000 in a psuedo-verité docu-style, Paranormal Activity is about a couple who suspect their house is haunted and set up video surveillance to capture the ghosts. Very Blair Witch-y (but with steadier cameras), this 99-minute flick also has no gore, no torture and no explosions. Just creepy, freaky ghost shit.

Older critics claim it watches like it should have been a ten-minute Youtube video, but today's audiences are tuned into the first person-narrative from years of video games and flicks like [REC•] and Cloverfield. Overall it works.

Paranormal Activity is hyper-real, and director Oren Peli even attempts to explain why the characters don't just leave the house. If watched in a theatre Paranormal Activity delivers real, true moments of spine tingling fear and suspense and that is a rarity these days. It craps out a tiny bit at the end but even so Paranormal Activity is a must-see this Halloween.

Also a must-see is the Heavy Hitting B-Grade Horrorfest Friday night at the Chateau. Local wunderkind director Brad Chornoby has teamed up with resident Dark Prince Conrad Shapansky on To Hell and Back and the sold-out crowd will also witness directorial debut flicks from Jeffe Lawrence and Sharai Rewels. The usual suspects of the local film scene will be there and we're also screening the B.C. premiere of Deadwalkers, a gory zombie western directed by Calgary's Spencer Estabrooks.

For the quieter and more peaceful movie-goer, and those not fatigued by the media onslaught surrounding the guy, Michael Jackson's movie This is It also opens Friday at the Village 8. I haven't seen it so I'll let you make the call - touching eulogy or opportunistic cash grab to recover losses from those cancelled London shows? Regardless, that guy was a legend and so is the zombie dance sequence in Thriller. Remember the first time you saw that video? Mind-blowing, and also probably the most watched Zombie movie of all time. The King of Pop will be missed.




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