Title: Supernatural Activity
Director: Derek Lee Nixon
Starring: Andrew Pozza, Liddy Bisnaz, Joey Oglesby
Released: 13h August 2012
Now when I opened this latest package of review discs and saw the title Supernatural Activity, I was naturally looking for The Asylum logo in the accompanying press materials. However rather than some species of mockbuster cashing in on the Paranormal Activity franchise, this movie is actually a spoof, setting out not only to parody not only Oren Peli's series but the like of The Last Exorcism, allegedly real-life supernatural shows like Most Haunted, and even the great grandfather of spooky hand held footage, The Blair Witch Project.
Now using my considerable psychic powers, I know exactly what you're thinking – you're thinking “didn't the Scary Movie flicks already flog that dead horse beyond not all profitable limits but beyond any sense or reason?” And yes, you're right - they did.
However, let's be honest here; the Scary Movie series and the deluge of similar spoof movies were very low brow efforts, stupid, childish and obvious. And so there was and indeed still is plenty of scope for a very funny movie parodying this particular strain of horror if you were to intelligently dissect the well known tropes of the found footage frights, rather than just filming the snarky remarks of the average beered-up teenager and crowbarring in as many pop culture references are possible.
Unfortunately Supernatural Activity is not that movie. Apparently the makers didn't get that memo we all sent to the Wayans – you remember, the one that said “Guys, knock it the fuck off!” in 32 point type – and instead invested in a fresh set of cat'o'nine tails. And believe me, Supernatural Activity proves beyond all reasonable doubt that there isn't one solitary scintilla of life left to found in that equine carcass, even when double dosed with Dr Herbert West's patent fluorescent formula. Damn it, even the maggots have moved out and raised families in the suburbs.
The first major problem becomes apparent in the first few minutes – for a film sending up the whole scary shaky camera genre in all its forms, Supernatural Activity just looks all wrong. It's clearly filmed properly and professionally – which usually isn't a bad thing. However the key to successful parody is to resemble your mark as closely as possible. Basically the more accurate you are, the funnier it is. So then if you don't nail the look and feel of the spoof's source, it's like seeing an impressionist who can't actually mimic his subjects, and the laughs are going to be thin on the ground.
And boy, are the laughs thin on the ground in this movie. In all fairness, in this demi-Wayans mode of fast, loose and daft spoofing, you expect some of the gags to misfire because the jokes are just being thrown at the screen in rapid succession. But you do expect some to hit, and although there's plenty that may raise a smile or too, Supernatural Activity never lands a single big belly laugh.
Now I know I'm not the target audience for this kind of movie; clearly it's aimed at a teenage market that likes it's comedy broad and obvious. But even so, I don't think I'm that over the hill; I still love the granddaddy of such spoof movies, Airplane!, to bits. And I'd expect a comedy flick, even one aiming outside my demographic, to raise at least one good guffaw. In the case of Supernatural Activity I waited, but it never came.
The cast, bless their hearts, give it their all and try to inject as much comedy as possible into their performances but the big punchlines just don't materialise. And after twenty minutes or so it was painfully obvious that my ribs would remain severely untickled. It's not unlike watching a heavily censored video nasty – all the set-ups are there but the pay-offs are missing, making the second half of the movie a real trial to sit through.
Possibly if you really really love the whole Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Date Movie, Dead Horse Movie malarkey, Supernatural Activity might play better for you. However my famous psychic powers are predicting that this script may well prove too weak even to raise a chuckle from the most undemanding comedy fan and that actually going and flogging a dead horse yourself will raise more laughs.