Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Signs Of Trouble For Found-Footage Horror Films?
Stats courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo.com
This past weekend Devil's Due opened at number seven in the top ten box office standings. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones fell out of the top ten altogether after falling to the number nine spot during the previous weekend. And to top it off, The Marked Ones opened at number two.
Think about that for a second. A heavily promoted Paranormal Activity film opened at number two. Yes, Frozen is a front-runner to take home the Oscar for Best Animated film, but let's look at the facts. Frozen received its limited theatrical release on November 22, 2013, and the wide release on November 27, 2013. That's a full month and then some before the release of The Marked Ones, and Paranormal Activity is a well-known franchise with a fan following and a proven track record of success (the original Paranormal Activity film and The Marked Ones are the only two films in the franchise that didn't open at number one). We're not talking about some random footage film. We're talking about a franchise with real name value, and The Marked Ones couldn't take the number one spot from a film that's been around since November?
And now we have Devil's Due. Devil's Due was heavily promoted for weeks, but the film opened at number seven. I wasn't 100% sold on Devil's Due, but I was sure Devil's Due would find a way to squeeze into the top three somehow. Although, you have to look at things from a moviegoer's POV. The trailers and TV spots for Devil's Due were too generic and ordinary. If I'm using the trailers and TV spots as a measuring stick, Devil's Due is a run-of-the-mill found-footage possession film, with cheap jump scares, and a lame cliffhanger ending.
I know we're in January, so there's plenty of time left in 2014. Still, you can't ignore the obvious warning signs after the recent slide for The Marked Ones, and the huge flop for Devil's Due. As far as Paranormal Activity goes, the franchise is suffering from a problem of one too many sequels. To make matters worse, Paranormal Activity sticks to a tiresome formula: 40-50 minutes of boring security camera footage (I don't need to know what's going on in your empty pool or kitchen at 3:00 am), sporadic attacks from Toby the invisible demon, and a suspenseful finale that might last ten or fifteen minutes. Also, we have a spin-off now, and we're preparing for the fifth film in the franchise, and Paranormal Activity's story is still going in circles? Sorry, but it's a big problem, if you're still giving your fanbase the run around after four films.
Devil's Due is another big red flag. A found-footage horror film about a possessed victim (or victims)? We've seen this same story with the same tired shaky cam tricks and predictable jump scares too many times now, and moviegoers are tired of it. The Devil Inside, The last Exorcism, the Paranormal Activity films. Year after year it's the same movie all over again, and it feels like we're stuck in a reoccurring cycle. And speaking of The Devil Inside, the ending still bothers me, and I watched the movie on opening weekend at theaters. You don't stick up a giant middle finger to your paying customers by telling them to finish the movie at home on the internet. Unacceptable.
If you read my reviews and other posts on here, you'll know I'm not a big fan of the found-footage genre (horror and non-horror). I actually enjoy a handful of found-footage films, including the first two [REC] films ([REC] 3 is unbearably awful for me), The Poughkeepsie Tapes, and Chronicle, but the constant barrage of found-footage films that stick to the same redundant formula annoy me. So when it's all said and done, I'm not sitting behind my keyboard, while twirling my bad guy mustache with a sinister grin on my face for the downfall of found-footage films.
But the found-footage horror sub-genre is in desperate need of a real spark. If we see a lukewarm box office run or a noticeable flop for Paranormal Activity 5 in October, then I think it's safe to say the future of the PA franchise is in jeopardy And to add insult to injury, you have to wonder about the future of found-footage horror films, because the standard formula of possession, exorcism, and an over the top finale with demon attacks is wearing thin.
With all that said, I hope the troubles for The Marked Ones and Devil's Due kill the chances for a found-footage Friday The 13th film. The rumors of the new Friday The 13th film having a found-footage POV are still floating around. It's clear horror found-footage films are starting to lose some luster, and I actually enjoyed the 2009 reboot. You're taking an unnecessary risk for killing the mystique of Jason Voorhees in a found-footage film, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed it won't happen.