In the realms of reality TV, ghost hunting is big business. And the Supernatural Activity team is at the top of their game, debunking myths, ghouls, and spooky places, for freaked-out viewers everywhere. The world's most beloved illusionist, accompanied by a crack team of paranormal investigators, embark on what might be their most terrifying assignment yet which works out great, since it s the last episode of the season. Besides, everyone knows there s not really such a thing as ghosts. What could go wrong? Terrorized at every turn, this witch-hunting, ghost-busting, creature-questing supernatural spoof-tacular is the funniest footage ever found! Turn the lights out. Watch with a friend you trust. Keep your eyes on the screen. Order me a sandwich. I m sorry what was I talking about?
a humorous riff on 'found footage' films --shocktillyoudrop.com
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(Note: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary for the discussion of plot and characters. If you're the kind of reader who wants a review completely unspoiled, then skip down to the last two paragraphs. Otherwise, if you're looking for some modest detail, read on.)
The documentary crew for the TV reality program `Supernatural Activity' is looking for material to shoot for its season finale. When a small-town legend regarding sightings of the mythical Smallsquatch comes to the attention of Damon Dealer (Andrew Pozza), he assembles his faithful crew: Blair (Libby Bisanz), his girlfriend; Brock (Donny Boaz), his co-host and Matthew McConaughey wannabe; Doug (Devin Bonnee), his cameraman; and Pepper (Joey Oglesby), his `tech' and resident weapons expert. Together, they head for Hickville, where they uncover much more than they ever bargained for!
Other reviewers may feel differently, but there was a respectably wholesome charm mystically floating somewhere near the heart of ACTIVITY. Some of the gags work extremely well and, no doubt, probably served as scriptwriter Pozza's inspiration in crafting the story. For example, Damon Dealer is clearly intended to be a self-absorbed `Chris Angel' knock-off, and Pozza (as the star) does a solid job embodying his lead with the right balance of aloofness and narcissism. Also, the rest of his crew bring their own dizzying enthusiasm to their respective roles - Brock is so equally self-involved that he unintentionally mashes up inspirational quotes he's co-opted from others; Blair wants to use her boyfriend's TV program to explore her own pet projects; Pepper uses the Bible to qualify his stereotypical Southern racism and general cluelessness; and Doug can't suppress his crush on Blair long enough to stop filming her boobs.
Furthermore, Pozza's principle focus - satirizing the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise of films - gets the lion's share of the screen time, and it's largely successful. For example, the blue-tinted night-time recording sequence gets winning treatment as the running gag of spousal abuse for the haunted couple (played with middling effectiveness by Tim Ogletree and Liz Waters) gets ratcheted up a few notches with some unexpected butt grabs and a suffocation gimmick. There's more - and that sequence alone is definitely the high point of the film for me - but I won't spoil all of it in case you're inclined to pick this one up. Also, the truth behind the rock piles and Damon's séance-inspired gibberish gets honorable mention.
Disappointingly, it's the focus on the rest of the film that suffers, serving as the Achilles' Heel to the farce.
Instead of maintaining a consistent `documentary within a documentary' format, the rest of ACTIVITY is captured as a traditional film. I could be wrong, but I can't help but wonder if the rest of the jokes would've played better (and consequently much funnier) if they had been captured in the same documentarian style. I found the constant jumping in and out of the mockumentary to the traditional feature more than a bit off-putting. It can be worked properly - one need only look at the sci-fi gem DISTRICT 9 as proof - but it's a hard line to walk when you're dealing with comedy.
Furthermore, the latter half of the film is plagued by the fact that the script veers off into mocking more found footage horror films. This works when audiences have seen the films in reference, and, based entirely on box office numbers, I'm not so sure that was as good an idea as it probably seemed at the time. The conclusion works hard - much too hard - and tying all of the nonsense together, but the beauty of the farce is that not all of it HAS to make perfect sense. Comedy - an acquired taste - can be broad enough to swipe at an entire genre, but parody - a subset of comedy - works best when there's a stronger narrative focus.
But, at the end of the day, what do I know? I only watch films. As it is, ACTIVITY delivered a handful of laughs. I think it could've done more - much more - had the `barbs' been under tighter control. Hopefully, this crew can take the lessons they learned from this picture and channel them into the next, as other comedy ensembles have done. I'll keep my fingers crossed that they do so and produce a stronger picture.
SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY is produced by Aristar Entertainment Group. DVD distribution is being handled by Well Go USA Entertainment. As for the technical specs, the film looks and sounds fairly solid, though there are a few jokes that fall flat because of poor miking. (How do I know? I back it up, turned up the sound, and heard the punchline. Never - and I mean NEVER - make the audience work to understand a joke.) As is customary with many small releases, there are no special features to speak of, except for the theatrical trailer.
MODESTLY RECOMMENDED so long as you're not expecting much. There are a few sparks of legitimate inspiration in SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY. Yes, they're too few and too far between, an all too common side effect of vanity-style projects. Had the producers, writer, and director actually put their heads together to flesh out some direction on the story - weeding out the bad jokes, centering the narrative around a single theme - the result may've been a re-watchable cult comedy ... not a bad aspiration. However, as it is, half of the picture is probably funny for ten years; unfortunately, ten-year-olds probably will not have seen the movies that the other half of the material pokes fun at.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD screener of SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
Unfortunately, they used the best gags in the trailer. Quite frankly, the Patrick Swayze jokes worked better in the trailer than it did in the movie. There is a couple of decent laughs here and there, but by the end of the movie, I wasn't even interested in ripping a copy.
The plot, if you wanna call it that, is about a guy who hosts his own spook investigating show. Along with him is his crew, who cares about introducing them. They take to a small town he does not want to go to, just because his girlfriend wants to find small-squatch or the gobbledock or something? I couldn't get the gist of if he was trying to prove it was fake or just wasn't interested, I didn't care to pay that much attention to care... but they end up experiencing things on a very low budget. It takes shots at Paranormal Activity, Rosmary's Baby & Blair Witch. Probably a few more movies, Like I said, I just didn't care to pay that much attention to it all.
It had a couple of laughs, so it makes it funnier than Epic Movie and that stupid Island one with Michael Jackson... but still, it's far from being as great as the real classic parody movies. VERY FAR. Put it this way, Scary Movie 5 was much funnier. And possibly even Haunted House or whatever that one the Wayans guy did. So, beware, this one might make you laugh if you watch it all, but if you turn it off in the first 10 mins, you won't be missing a must see laugh.
I'd recommend it if you enjoy cult and horror films, good or bad, and would appreciate the possibly lesser known references. Plus, the actors kept me interested without becoming irritating as their caricatures; I felt in on the joke with good actors playing dumb rather than giving terrible actors a pass for the sake of 'it's a joke, get it?'. I found it reminiscent of classic Zucker timing, like "Airplane!" and "Kentucky Fried Movie", where no one took themselves seriously except when it made an awkward moment funnier. Highly enjoyed it!
Satire is a difficult art form and in the wrong hands it can be disastrous. This film is a prime example.
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