Tag Archives: paranormal

Movie Review: Odd Thomas (2013) (3 ½ *’s)

Odd Thomas is a movie based on the novel of the same name by Dean R. Koontz. I haven’t read much of Dean R. Koontz’s work, just The Watchers and maybe one other book which I don’t recall. I was always impressed by the caliber of his writing, so a friend and I figured we’d give this movie a look (he’d actually read the book and said that he liked it). The movie tells the story of a young man living in a small town by the name of Odd Thomas. Yes, his first name is Odd. This is the result of a typo at birth; his parents were originally going to call him Todd.

Anyway, Odd has a number of special abilities, all psychic in nature. He can see the dead; he can see these evil demonic spirits that flock to chaos and death, and he can find people he’s looking for—provided they are relevant to his current psychic case—simply by wandering around town. He’s also a heck of a good fist-fighter. The story begins with him encountering the ghost of a girl who was recently slain. She leads him to her murderer, who he promptly chases down and beats into submission for the police to take care of. That’s just the intro. From there, the plot thickens when he notices a man at his restaurant who is attracting an unusually high number of demonic spirits. This portends a massacre in the making. And that is something he has stop. The other characters in the film include his girlfriend Stormy, the police captain, a number of policemen, a single mother of two, and a few others.

 

Strengths: the movie had good plot, good characters, and decent special effects. I didn’t notice any logical loopholes on a first viewing, nor was the violence gratuitous. And the acting, I thought, was pretty good. Weaknesses: I think it tried to be too clever. There were a number of “twists” which involved additional bad guys, that got a bit tiresome; I walked away thinking they’d used that twist just one too many times. I mean really—was the whole town out to get them? Anyway, it was still a good movie and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for some paranormal mystery-type entertainment.

 

Ultimately, I’ll give Odd Thomas three and a half, or maybe even four stars out of five.

Movie Review: The Conjuring (2013)

The movie The Conjuring is a tale of horror revolving around witchcraft and its attendant evil. Well, that’s how the movie tries to come across; the problem is, of course, that witchcraft as understood by most Wiccans has nothing to do with Satan and is not evil. That said, this movie is supposed to be based on a true story. And in this story, the witch in question sacrifices her young baby to “Satan,” (whether or not it was actually Satan or a misunderstanding of the Wiccan horned god, I don’t know) and after her own death goes about forcing other mothers to do the same. Hence, this particular witch—supposedly based on a true account—clearly is/was evil regardless of the religion she practiced or how one understands said religion. Well, enough of a digression into comparative religion and moral philosophy :), on with the movie …

 

This film tells the story of the Perrons, a family who recently moved into a house that is haunted by a dark presence (the aforementioned evil witch, to be precise). They are so terrorized they call on paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Ed and Lorraine Warren are actually quite famous in paranormal circles. As I said, the film is supposed to be based on a true account. The Perrons experience the whole bevy of demonic harassments. It begins with simple things: an occasional unexplainable sound, clocks stopping, and similar such things. It progresses to people being awoken by something pulling on their legs, to being attacked by ghostly apparitions and ghost-propelled objects. It culminates in a possession and an attempted murder.

 

Strengths: this movie held my attention from the very beginning. It was not your typical hacker/slasher horror movie filled with people being slain left and right. I won’t tell you how many people actually died in the film, because that would ruin the surprise (it is a very low number—I’ll tell you that much). The low death toll is actually a strength in my opinion; the movie got its scares without killing people … and it did a good job at that. It had all the potential of the movie Sinister, but it delivered because it didn’t end in a blood bath. Weaknesses: My one and only complaint was the over dramatization of the special effects in the end. As the movie reached its climax, so did the use of special effects. And if paranormal events involved such phenomena to such a degree in real life, I don’t think anyone would question their reality. But I guess that’s just Hollywood, dressing up the truth to better compete in the marketplace. Other than that, I don’t think there were any weaknesses.

 

I’ll give the movie The Conjuring four out of five stars.

Old Movie Review: The Awakening (2011)

“The Awakening” is a paranormal horror/thriller starring Rebecca Hall as the skeptical hoax-buster Florence Cathcart. The setting is 1921 England, shortly after World War I. Florence has led a troubled life: she has blocked out much of her childhood, and (if I recall correctly) has lost her husband in the war.

 

The movie begins with her exposing the hoax of a spiritualist group. Shortly, thereafter a man by the name of Robert Mallory comes to her home to hire her to look into several ghost sightings at a boys’ boarding school. She reluctantly agrees and heads to the school. She begins her investigation with the various and sundry trappings of a disciplined scientist. She soon discovers, however, that the things that go bump in the night may just have more credence than she first believed.

 

The plot of the story is pretty straightforward at first: it’s basically a paranormal investigation being performed by a skeptic based on debunking the phenomena. The paranormal effects are carefully and precisely done, which is a pleasure. They did not go overboard. There were no bubbling cauldrons of blood or eviscerated phantasms … well, there was some gunshot wounds, but that was about it. I found that refreshing because the movie relied on plot and structure to build suspense. And that’s what it was: more suspenseful than horror. And I liked that.

 

Strengths: the carefully chosen special effects were masterful. As were the oddly disturbing use of seemingly ordinary objects: a doll with a rabbit’s head, a dollhouse filled with little homemade figures. Taken together, they gave the film a subtle, yet satisfying ambience. Weaknesses: I wouldn’t call this a weakness, but there was little blood and gore. Some people looking for strict horror might be unsatisfied. But actually, upon reflection, I would regard that as a strength. The biggest weakness, I thought, was the unneeded double twist at the end. I say double, because there were two twists and neither one was needed. I would have been perfectly happy if the story had stuck to the original storyline of the paranormal investigation vindicating the existence of ghosts. But they had to (spoiler alert) tie back the whole building and ghost to the main character, and then have the psycho nanny (or whoever she was) try to kill the main character. A well-crafted paranormal investigation would have suited me much better and could have been a better movie.

 

Overall, I’ll give the movie four out of five stars. It would have been four and a half out of five if they had just resolved the original story line without the double twist. But they didn’t.

Movie Review: ParaNorman

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I saw the kid’s movie “ParaNorman” the other day and found it enjoyable, although I have a few caveats. A few months back I came upon a blog written by a Christian woman complaining about the upcoming children movies that support necromancy, something viewed as very sinful by the typical Christian (actually, I think most modern Christians probably don’t think it is even possible, so being ‘sinful’ is moot). ParaNorman was one of the movies referenced in the blog (another was Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie). Anyway, if you want to take that route with ParaNorman it is open to that criticism–but, then, so are most fantasy movies/books (including my own Drasmyr). Personally, I think that’s going a bit too far; the movie was intended as a silly adventure with a supernatural theme; something fit for Halloween consumption. And as a writer of fantasy myself and a long-time AD&D player, I generally regard magic use as an interesting use of one’s imagination and generally harmless. Still, I can see how the movie could be construed as supportive of witchcraft, sorcery, and similar themes. And it is geared towards young children. So, you’ll have to make up your own mind there. Like I said, it didn’t bother me, but others might be offended.

 

The main character is a young boy with the unusual ability of being able to see and speak with the dead. He is well-known for having conversations with the many ghosts he finds around him. And he is widely regarded as an outcast and an oddity by the people in his town. Naturally, it falls upon him to save the town from the evil of a three-hundred-year-old witch’s curse. The trial and nature of the curse, and the identity of the witch are all part of the mystery of the story, so I won’t spoil it here. Let’s just say the witch is justly angry for her execution and it falls to Norman to resolve the matter. To assist him, he has a best friend (whose name I forget… was it “Neil?”), and a few other compatriots who, at least initially, are less well-intentioned toward him. The story is basically a typical transformation of outcast to hero that seems so popular these days. I thought the climactic confrontation at the end was a bit overdone and drawn-out, but other than that the story held together well.

 

I do have two more caveats regarding the film. Near the beginning, there is an obviously ill man (Norman’s uncle) who, at one point, takes a handful of pills and tosses them in his mouth. I’m sure they were intended to treat his illness(es), but the casual way in which it was done did raise my eyebrows. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but I wish they had taken a little more care in presenting the medicine. The last caveat: towards the end of the movie, one of the male minor characters reveals he’s gay by saying “You should meet my boyfriend.” It’s done casually, in an offhand, but blatant way. Homosexuality is something of a divisive issue, so I don’t think it really belongs in a children’s movie. Some people might be offended by it, others not. In the end, I think particularly devout religious people (of the Christian persuasion, probably Muslim as well… not sure of the others) have ample opportunity to be offended by this movie. Personally, I was not; I enjoyed it, though I thought the gay bit was a hair inappropriate.

 

Overall, I’ll give “ParaNorman” three and a half stars out of five.