Paranormal Apparition [aka Cold Blood Canyon]

Certificate: 18
Running Time: 90 mins
Director: Alec Tuckman
Starring: Elissa Dowling, Lulu Brud, Dan Holahan
Genre: Horror
Country: USA

Beverly Hills, swimming pools, movie stars…and the occasional haunted mansion; this is the premise behind the 2007 release, originally titled Cold Blood Canyon.  The synopsis is one that’s greeted by most horror cinema enthusiasts with a level of caution…scepticism and maybe even fear as one year can’t seem to pass without an unexpected horror hit being mined by many inferior reproductions.  The re-branding of Cold Blood Canyon in order to hitch its wagon alongside the hugely successful Paranormal Activity franchise is where the fear should probably end as for the most part, Paranormal Apparition is a pretty good movie.

When it comes to the story, PA is in no danger of breaking new ground, accidentally or otherwise; but then again show me a horror film that does and I’ll show you a rarity.  Wife, (second) husband and daughter move to Los Angeles, take up residence in the dream house only for said dream house to have a mysterious (and bloody) past.  Daughter is sensitive to the atmosphere of the abode, parents oblivious –go!  For the most part you can pretty much chart where this movie is going to go only you can’t.  There are one of two shoulder drops that send you off in another direction and they are not only hugely entertaining but rather well plotted.  It’s a real shame they aren’t 1. more frequent and 2. earlier as it could have really helped a script that didn’t so much run out of steam as not have a great deal in the tank when it set out across country.  They are there (at least) and they give the film a much needed change of pace and sense of identity that the audience will certainly appreciate, appreciate enough to even overlook the odd plot hole.

The cinematography and direction are both strong, confident, steady where it needs to be steady but not without a little flash and style when required.  The use of light and shadow to create the echo of a spectre are well worked.  Tuckman understands the financial restraints that come from the larger end of independent production and that CGI is best used if required rather than when required.  The framing and pacing are excellent in both the late-night “what’s that sound?” scenes and the adrenaline fuelled moments of the final third; and to his credit Tuckman knows how to tell a compelling visual story.

Paranormal Apparition is not without its fair share of solid performances.  Lulu Brud (Danielle) has the unenviable task of carrying the movie that most of the audience are convinced they’ve seen before.  Up against this unseen enemy, not to mention the unseen enemy within the Coldwater Canyon residence this is a mighty task yet she’s strong.  Brud’s performance is one filled with honesty, intelligence, emotion, strength and believability that’s not present all too often in horror cinema.  Look back at the early Nightmare on Elm Street movies and try not to pull the Macauley Culkin shocked face at what’s on screen.  She’s the driving force behind the narrative and does an excellent job at raising the bar for all around her.  Similarly, Dan Holahan as the stepdad is nothing short of powerful on screen.  This man casts an undeniable force across the mise-en-shot demanding that all viewing become involved in his performance.  There’s a richness to his presence that is all too often lacking in independent cinema, and a charisma to his delivery that’s marvellous.  Jen McAllister (Evelyn, the mother) has a habit of blending into the background –and it’s hardly surprising.  Up against husband and daughter it would take a performance of thesp standards to carve out a patch of screen-time for herself.

There are some issues with Paranormal Apparition though nothing that can’t be forgiven and when the biggest issue is sound quality –when shooting exterior shots in noisy Los Angeles, it shows that there’s a lot (between opening and ending credits) to be proud of.  With Paranormal Apparition Tuckman has skilfully blended two different, well tested, sub-genres of horror in order to create something that’s entertaining in its own right and not because of any relationship to a similarly named mainstream success story but because there's an enthusiasm to the work on-screen that oozes from every shot.


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