I’m not one for going to the movies. As a germaphobe, they represent a big room filled with ignorant mouth-breathers, the air hazy with projectile spit which you’d be able to see if it weren’t so dark. For that reason, I normally see movies on DVD up to a year after everyone else has seem them.
I have decided that given my extensive DVD collection,
DVD Collection. What's a hermit to do?
I am now in a position to forecast with perfect accuracy how any sequel or ‘dreamteam’ film will turn out. I know what you’re thinking. How can you predict such a chaotic process? Well, that was what you were
Predictable Dreamteams. 'Nuff said.
thinking, now you’re thinking “OMG, how did he know what I was thinking?!” and the answer to both is the same: I’m a genius, which is why the government is trying to drop anthrax on my house with vapour trails left by jet engines in the sky. They’re afraid of me. And you should be too.
On to the good stuff. Paranormal Activity 2.
I recently watched the first film from within my hermetically-sealed bubble. It was hard to make out a lot of the sound as the TV was on the outside (the static from the TV interferes with the clingfilm I used to make the bubble if I take it inside, and besides, the gov’nment always puts things in electronics to make you sick), but it was clear what was happening:
- They messed with shit they weren’t supposed to mess with and it got all pissed off.
- His wife wasn’t that hot, but she had a pretty stellar rack (don’t hate the player, hate the game).
- He was anorexic.
- They had a very nice house considering he appeared to be unemployed, and she appeared to be too whiny to be employable.
I may have missed a couple of subtleties, but divining these things is a surprisingly unsubtle process. Before I take the above data and infer the quintessence of the sequel, it’s important to factor in the aftermath of the first film. Budget: USD$11,000 (roughly). It made USD$183,000,000. That is a pretty decent return, even if we deduct about twenty percent for marketing and distribution costs. It’s still mighty fine, but it’s also going to be the downfall of the sequel. Let me take you to how that happens.
Whomever picked up the film first would have been ecstatic at the film’s success as it would impress his bosses and guarantee promotion. His bosses, on seeing the success of the film would have immediately fired him in case he got ideas above his station and wanted to sap some of the glory that they clearly deserved for seeing his potential and hiring him in the first place. Once they had hired someone less uppity to oversee the business of distributing and promoting the film internationally, they would have decided how they were going to make the sequel an even bigger success.
2. Focus Testing
The Focus Group Method
What did you like about the film? Was it scary? Was it too scary? Was it scary enough? How would you rate the scariness on a scale from one to fifteen? Which parts were the scariest? What would be scarier than that? Do you like being scared? Are you scared right now?
These are the kinds of questions that would have been fired at people selected from the target demographic, which, as the film’s grosses escalated, came eventually to include everyone. Old age pensioners were being asked if the “chick was hot enough”, teenagers were being asked if they thought the themes lacked maturity. The whole thing derailed into a pile of useless data, though the new producers (the old ones having been fired for underestimating the film’s success) were too high on coke, mescaline and speedballs to notice. Once they had all of this data, they yelled at interns to collate it while they scoured IMDb.com for the new director.
This is where the hunt starts. Who are they going to get to direct this new ‘sure thing’? I wasn’t there of course, but I guarantee the conversation went a little something like this:
Exec A: OK dickheads, time to put some asshole’s butt in the director’s chair. Who do you see lensing this picture?
Exec B: Sharon Stone? She’s been looking at getting into directing.
Exec C: Into directing your pants!
Exec A & C high-five.
Exec A: Pull it together, dude.
Exec B: Right, well, what about Drew Barrymore?
Exec A: No, but seriously. C’mon guys, I’m doing lunch with Brad in like ten minutes. Let’s wrap this shit up.
Exec C: Yeah, and what the fuck is it with you and chick directors?
Exec B: They were serious suggestions, and wrap this shit up? We just got here, shouldn’t we consider this carefully?
Exec A: You’re right, we did just get here, and now you’re outta here. Get the fuck out of my building you creep, you’re fired. If you speak to me I’ll call security and have you removed.
Exec B hangs his head and leaves silently.
Exec C: Good job, Boss.
Exec A: I’m not a fag, so don’t suck my dick. You have two minutes of my time, whose day are we making?
Exec C: Fincher? I hear early reports on The Social Network, looks good.
David Fincher. "Scary Fuck"
They ponder working with Fincher in silence.
Exec A: No. No, he scares the shit out of me.
Exec C thinks as Exec A impatiently starts googling hot chicks and checking his watch.
Exec C: Blomkamp? He’s wrapped up in development on his new picture, might like to get away on something prepackaged and fast-tracked like this.
Exec A rubs his crotch as he thinks. Exec C pretends not to notice.
Neill Bomkamp. "Softening Fuck"
Exec A: I’m thinking about it but it’s just not getting me hard. Skip it, he’s too established, we need someone brand new.
Exec C thinks for a bit. Exec A starts rubbing faster.
Exec C coughs awkwardly and tries not to stare.
Exec C: Got someone who’s got you hard?
Exec A looks confused and spins his monitor around.
Exec A: Who’s that?
Exec C: Gretchen Mol?
Exec A: No, beside the cunt.
Exec C: Oh, I think that’s Tod Williams.
Gretchen Mol and Tod Williams "Stiffening Fuck"
Exec A: Him.
Exec C: Oh, sure, you don’t think maybe you’re stiff for Gretchen?
Exec A: No, I don’t, and you’re fired, you sick unprofessional dickhead. Get the fuck out or I’ll ruin you.
Exec C slinks out of the office as Exec A does another line of coke.
With that nice business all taken care of, Tod Williams got the call he’d been waiting for and turned up for a series of meetings where it was made clear by delightful gentlemen like the execs above that if he didn’t do as he was told his career would be ruined and he’d be lucky if he could get a job doing wedding videos.
They handed him the data from the focus groups above, told him to “write the fucking thing”, hassled him for a draft and then when he turned it in didn’t bother to read it as they’d gotten impatient and had hired and fired fifteen writers in the intervening week and that production started on Tuesday.
The producers would take dailies, show them unedited to focus groups, who would understandably become bored by the multiple takes and clapperboards and crewmembers in shot, only becoming interested when things went wrong, at which point they’d laugh. The producers quickly saw that what they had on their hands was a comedy, not a horror film. This was alarming because the public expected a horror film. Each evening they’d send back the dailies with reams of notes and audience feedback to the director who had developed a serious drinking problem as a result of the inhuman stresses of capitalising on his ‘big break’.
Showing the rough cuts each day to new focus groups, the producers could see that there was some horror to be found in the film, but only the quick-cutting SURPRISE kind. The director (now single because of his increasingly problematic alcoholism which was killing him from the inside) tried to explain to the producers that without decent sound and picture work, the only scares he could put in at this stage were quick surprising cuts, but they’d been producers for months now and knew when a director was clearly lying to them.
They fired the editor and hired two new ones, one to work with the director, one to work with them. They’d screen competing cuts back to back and always dismissed his as boring, too slow, ‘shitty’ or ‘not market oriented’.
When the final touches came, they hired a post-production supervisor who was under strict instructions not to do anything without calling the producers first. The director started carrying a gun, so the producers secretly hired an assistant to replace the ammunition with blanks, and if necessary, seduce him.
7. The Premiere
The director is made to do four hours of red-carpet interviews. Nearly a week sober, the shakes from withdrawal and the unkempt beard he’s sporting to hide the fresh self-harm scars, he does not paint a pretty picture, but he does his best. Relieved, he collapses into his seat in the theatre and looks forward to seeing the film edited behind closed doors for the last few months, glad his ordeal is finally over and wondering if maybe he’s blown the whole thing out of proportion.
The film does not play well. The director is hospitalised with blank-caused muzzle-fire wounds to the head, but survives. As he manages to open his good eye in the hospital he sees the intern who saved his life but disfigured him, falsely telling his now estranged wife (who came to visit and forgive him) that they had been having an affair, as she’d been instructed to do. The director laughs as he realises that even though he has made a terrible film, the ordeal has been a series of horrors for him, and that he lived the horror he tried and failed to portray. His estranged wife misinterprets this grim laughter and stabs her husband in the face with an IV needle she rips from his arm. He dies from complications arising from the wounds and she goes to prison forever.
8. The Film
So, what does all of that add up to? A pretty mediochre film, but worth a look. I give it 6 out of 10.
Posted in Staff Writer |