It’s hard out there for a film critic.
It’s especially hard right now — January. People say, “Happy New Year.” People think of new beginnings and better times. A chance to slough off the encrusted crud of the past 12 months and begin afresh, however arbitrarily. Some people even make resolutions. From this moment forward...
But, apparently, the studios (and even the indies) have figured out that a great many people resolve not to go to the movies in the coming year. Why else would they save all their post-Christmas turkeys, the stuff that maybe didn’t test so well in Camarillo, and then dump them into January? In many parts of the country, January is a lousy time to be outdoors, confronting the gray reality of winter. Which makes it a great time to be indoors, enjoying the joyous Technicolor fantasy of movies. But, no.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
What’s opening wide this week? Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the fifth entry in an overachieving found-footage horror series. You guys, there is so much found footage out there. And that’s it. Happy New Year. Maybe the movie is great. I don’t know; it didn’t screen for critics. Critics are not the audience here. I’m guessing this means that people who read the critics are not the audience here. Or maybe it’s just that the critic is unnecessary here: you know what this is. The film may startle you in places, but it isn’t likely to surprise you in any way at all.
Perhaps I’m being overly harsh. It’s not like Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones completely ignored the critics. Shortly before Christmas, the folks behind the film sent me a lovely kit, marked with an image of a Virgin Mary statue with a skull face. Inside was a card listing “10 signs of paranormal activity in your barrio,” including this: “9. Apariciones or physical manifestations of an espiritu or entity.” Foreign words are spooky, especially when they’re not rendered in italics!
On the other side of a card was another list: “How to protect yourself from paranormal activity in 10 steps.” First step is to visit a curandera. Then get “an egg, Virgen de Guadalupe candle, protection oil, holy water, and a protective charm or amulet.” Inside the kit: the candle, the protection oil, a plastic vial marked “Holy Water,” a glass jar, a Guadalupe medal, and a foam egg. Well and good, except how am I supposed to use a foam egg to perform the “limpia de huevo (egg cleansing) procedure”? Because it clearly says I’m supposed to break the egg into a clear glass of water. “If there are bubbles in the water, you have mal de ojo (evil eye). If the egg yolk is bloodstained or the water turns dark, you have a brujeria hex.” So elaborate, and so utterly silly — the kit, I mean. Why not just let me see the film?
Speaking of unnecessary critics: having been at this since late 2010, I am now eligible to apply to be assimilated into the Borg that is RottenTomatoes.com. What saddens me is not so much that, even if accepted, my voice will be but one among the millions. It’s that all of those voices will get converted into a number and a brief summary judgment. “The critics have spoken: 75% for second Hobbit movie.” But I’ll still apply. Oh, you betcha. Because that’s where the critical action is these days. Who knows, but someday, some poor soul might click through to an actual review I’ve written? A man can dream. Maybe if I’m devoted and diligent enough, I’ll get a letter like the one Scott Marks got a couple weeks back, the one that accused him of hating everything and everyone, save “Marty.”
I’ll keep at it. See you next week. By then, maybe your resolutions will start breaking down and you’ll be ready to go see Her.