The Paranormal Incident has a lot to prove to us horror fans. I mean just look at that title: The Paranormal Incident. It’s not too catchy is it? It doesn’t exactly evoke terror or intrigue, or fear, or even vague unease does it?
As titles go it’s pretty weak. In fact it’s almost as if they shoehorned the word paranormal into the script just so that perhaps some unsuspecting, horror illiterate would accidentally buy the DVD thinking it was a sequel/prequel/tie-in/spin-off from a very popular horror series which also has the word ‘paranormal’ in its title.
In fact, searching IMDB for movies with the name ‘paranormal’ gives over 100 partial matches, including The Paranormal Incident, Paranormal Entity, Paranormal Adoption, Paranormal Parody, Paranormal Camcorder and My Paranormal Romance (that one sounds like a classic!)
From full features to shorts to alternate titles to fool foreign markets, it seems that paranormal is a popular preface to any and all horror movies these days. So it’s no surprise to see that the majority of these title twins were all released post 2007 – the year that Paranormal Activity smashed box offices and put paranormal back into our vocabulary, and seemingly onto the heading of every horror.
For better or worse (I say worse) the other thing Paranormal Activity revitalized was found footage films. And it is no surprise at all to discover that The Paranormal Incident (probably along with more than half those films on the list) is shot in such a style.
Following the paranormal exploits of a gang of paranormal seeking students, the paranormal loving kids head to the paranormal Odenbrook Sanatorium, a paranormal hospital heralded for its paranormal activity. All since it closed in a paranormal way due to the almost paranormal mass suicide of many of its far from normal patients who are said to now paranormally haunt it.
Ooh how paranormal!
All this leads to the usual jerky cameras, night-vision-green screens, security footage, bumps and bangs, jumps and scares and the ultimate climax where it all becomes a whole lot more paranormal than they ever thought it would.
To The Paranormal Incident’s credit it does attempt to innovate slightly from the norm with a wrap around story, shot in the conventional manner where the lone survivor John (Oliver Rayon) is grilled by a mysterious agent about what really happened, all as they watch the footage found after his friends have disappeared.
There is also the interesting element at the opening, which is half of the teenage ghost hunters believe in the supernatural and the other half don’t. This division then prompts arguments and explains the group’s drive to capture something on film that conclusively proves either side right.
Sadly though, this original idea is left behind as the characters forget their original motivation and turn into simple minded scream machines, as the film becomes more and more clichéd and trite.
From here we are forced to watch endless creepy corridor walking episodes, silly sound recording sessions and unprovoked freaking out, as well as every other convention found in endless TV paranormal shows, and being just as unbelievable.
This inspires boredom and despair in the viewer who will then, as is inevitable in all bad found footage films, start to wonder ‘who put subtitles on the footage. How did they get the closed hospitals security camera feed? Why don’t they just call for help? And who edited all this together into a coherent storyline?’ Coming quickly to the conclusion that ultimately, who the hell cares?
The Paranormal Incident isn’t all bad, but sadly its shameless cashing in on the name and style of a far better made and more successful franchise damages any chance of redemption it had.