Director/Screenplay – Shane Van Dyke, Photography – Akis Konstantakopoulos, Music – Chris Ridenhour, Production Design – Scott Leverett. Production Company – The Asylum
Erin Marie Hogan (Samantha Finley), Fia Perera (Ellen Finley), Shane Van Dyke (Thomas Finley), Norman Saleet (Dr Lauren)
A series of video recordings have been found that depict the events leading up to a murder that occurred at the Finley household. Upon the advice of a parapsychologist, son Thomas had set up a series of video cameras around the house to record evidence of paranormal activity. This had begun after his mother Ellen had started trying to contact her husband David who was killed in a car crash the year before. As the recordings demonstrated, an increasingly malevolent supernatural force had begun to take Ellen over in her sleep and was also menacing and harassing the sister Samantha.
The Asylum is a company that specialises in low-budget copies of more famous films, all sold with soundalike titles designed to come out at the time of their namesake releases. See the likes of The Da Vinci Treasure (2006), Snakes on a Train (2006), AVH: Alien vs Hunter (2007), The Hitchhiker (2007), I Am Omega (2007), Transmorphers (2007), Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (2008), The Day the Earth Stopped (2008), 100 Million B.C. (2008), Sunday School Musical (2008), The 18 Year Old Virgin (2009), Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012), Age of the Hobbits (2012) and Atlantic Rim (2013), among others. After the massive success of Paranormal Activity (2007) in 2009, The Asylum quickly responded with Paranormal Entity and sent it to dvd shelves one month after Paranormal Activity went into widespread cinematic release.
Oren Peli made Paranormal Activity on a budget of $15,000, which is nearing about as cheap as it is possible to make a film; with Paranormal Entity, The Asylum have topped that and made a film that seems even cheaper. While Peli was able to shoot on hi-def camera, Shane Van Dyke shoots with a standard handheld camera. The cast has been efficiently trimmed down to three people, one of these being Shane Van Dyke who both operates the camera and plays the son of the family, as well as a fourth in the form of an expert (Norman Saleet) who comes to offer help in a couple of scenes at the end.
I am not exactly sure whether Paranormal Entity was made on a rushed schedule – The Asylum usually release their films a day or so before their big-budget counterparts but this time waited an entire month after Paranormal Activity came out, undoubtedly because that was such a sleeper success that nobody predicted it beforehand, which must have made for an incredibly hasty shooting schedule – or whether much of the film’s slapdash quality can be put down to a novice director. While Oren Peli transformed an ordinary home into something eerie, this simply looks like someone wandering through a family home with a videocamera that seems at best aimed in the general direction of things happening. As director, Shane Van Dyke seems to lack any real idea of how to stage and set-up a scene, least of all how to generate any of Peli’s eeriness or just basic suspense. Most of the scares – the cameras watching and waiting, people somnambulistically walking into rooms, covers being moved off beds, objects falling down have been borrowed from Paranormal Activity or, in the image of Erin Marie Hogan standing blankly facing the wall, from The Blair Witch Project (1999). Out of this, Shane Van Dyke fails to have anything interesting happening – a crucifix falls off the wall above Erin Marie Hogan’s bed, the covers are yanked off her bed, Fia Perera goes walking in the middle of the night and engages in some automatic writing, Erin Marie is found blankly standing in the attic and that is about it.
Following the lead of Paranormal Activity, The Asylum spun off a series of quasi-sequels or at least where other Found Footage ghost stories they had made were renamed as sequels each timed around the release of one of the Paranormal Activity sequels. These include Paranormal Entity 2, which was originally Gacy House (2010); Paranormal Entity 3, originally Annelise: The Exorcist Tapes (2011); and Paranormal Activity 4, which was originally 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck (2012).
Director Shane Van Dyke went onto direct several other films for The Asylum with 6 Guns (2010), Titanic II (2010) and A Haunting in Salem (2011). He had earlier written the screenplays for The Day the Earth Stopped (2008), Street Racer (2008) and Transmorphers: The Fall of Man (2009). He later scripted several films for other companies with the likes of the Oren Peli produced Chernobyl Diaries (2012), The Sacred (2012) and Battledogs (2013).