Supernatural Activity

Supernatural Activity….. a ‘found footage’ movie that WINS.

Being an independent filmmaker, a horror movie fanboy, and having worked for a low-budget horror distribution company, I have seen (or seen parts of) dozens of “found footage” movies.

Generally I am not a fan of that sort of style, given that much of my personal enjoyment of watching movies is the cinematography, and in a “found footage” movie I would hesitate to call the camera work (however immaculately shot & lit) to be ‘Cinematography’ as much as it is ‘Camera Operating’.

I don’t mean this as a sleight against the no-doubt talented cinematographers who work hard on (some) of these films, I’m just saying that the vast majority of films in this style (be it action, horror, sci-fi, whatever) are intentionally shot to look like a home movie and as a paying viewer that’s just not my thing.

To give credit where credit is due on the low-budget side there are a few honorable mentions like The Great American Snuff Film or Death of a Ghost Hunter (solid indie films you should also check out), while the vast majority of the low-budget found footage movies really SUCK and honestly are rather devoid of talent and originality. When you throw in larger budget films like Troll Hunter or Cloverfield then you start to win me back as an audience member, since the world they are taking their ‘found footage’ characters through is fabricated and pretty incredible.

At any rate, what I like about Supernatural Activity is that it faithfully parodies the ‘found footage’ movies, most notably Paranormal Activity, which had a brilliantly executed marketing campaign. Supernatural Activity also parodies the glut of paranormal or ghost hunter reality TV shows…. which is not expressly classified as ‘found footage’ though it is certainly shot in the same way, and has just as much of a contrived storyline as any feature film.

So for me sitting down to watch Supernatural Activity was a happy journey of jokes at the expense of both the found footage films and paranormal reality shows. Faithfully executed from the cast, the shooting style, the editing & presentation, and sheer silliness of the whole fad. Not to mention some heavy laughs brought on at the expense of Chris Angel.

If you love found footage movies and/or paranormal reality shows, or if you hate them, or if you love/hate them, or hate-love them, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Supernatural Activity.

Check it out here.  

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Sticks & Stones

I played with sticks when I was a kid, and I’ll even admit to playing with sticks when I was a teenager, and yes I’ll go you one further and say I still like to play with sticks. Growing up in rural Arkansas meant that I was surrounded by woods, and though my brother and I had plenty of the usual kinds of “boy’s toys” like GI Joe action figures, Star Wars, and those wooden musket cap guns, we loved to make our own toys with sticks. We’d head out into the forest and find a handful of awesome sticks of various sizes and weights, though we’d always be sure to get sturdy ones. Then we’d take them back home, get out the duct tape, and start crafting some seriously wicked stuff. When we’d visit New Mexico my grandfather would take us into the woodshop and help us build extra-sturdy wooden swords, axes, and whatever other bizzare weapons our imaginations could come up with.

As I got older this fascination with “sticks” was tempered by the desire to create things that had a more real-life functionality to them. This was right about the time I met Ryan Loyd, a fellow stick lover and maker-of-things. Nothing like a full workshop and the desire to create legitimate weapons to give rise to some of the more wicked ‘murder sticks’ that I think have ever been hefted by folks in the modern world.

This leads me to my current fascination with the video game “Dead Island”… now I know that its a game that has been around for awhile. I’m usually late to the party when it comes to video games, having grown up without them (beyond Aztec Challenge on the Commodore 64) and going straight into Playstation 3 ownership. I know its an older game, but I’m loving it. Not only is Dead Island a ‘zombie survival’ video game, which means is perfect for my tastes in media, but the use of firearms in the game is extremely limited.

The characters are on the island of Banoi in Papa New Guinea, so there just aren’t guns readily available for average people, so the game focuses on hand-to-hand and melee combat. Since we (sadly) do not live in a world where people carrying swords is a normal thing, the characters have to scrounge for whatever they can find and make their own weapons. Characters can find lead pipes, pool sticks, boat paddles, baseball bats, diving knives, hammers, wrenches, machetes, and yes (since its a video game) the occasional mace (but at least they make them look like the cheap versions you can buy at BudK). Then there are ‘workbenches’ where you can customize your weapons.

That’s my favorite part. You can start with a baseball bat, then drive nails through it, then wrap it in barbed wire, then dip it in gasoline… and now you’ve got a flaming bat of DOOM. Or you can take a machete, a large battery, some wires, and duct tape it all together to create a ‘shock machete’. Considering that I’ve been customizing ‘found weapons’ since I was a kid… this game is perfectly tailored to suit my particular tastes.

I am positive that both playing as a child, tinkering as a young man, and now gaming as an adult (all with this custom murder stick enjoyment) has something to do with a deeply buried instinct. When you look at ancient Polynesian cultures (I’m singling them out for having the most awesome customized murder sticks) they did pretty much the same thing that I’ve been doing in play (and in the game) by taking objects in their environment and working them into deadly combinations (turtle shell stabbing gauntlets? yep, they’ve got em). So maybe I’m just staying in touch with a more primitive side of my human self, nothing wrong with that.

Besides, its fun, and I’ll never get caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse without some kind of way to defend myself.