Without even looking at the credits, I knew that with a name like paranormal entity this would bean Asylum film. It opens with the 911 call “they’re all dead! My sister is dead! “, before switching to a handheld camera. We get the premise that they were advised to set up cameras in the house to capture the activity, and then cut back to a black screen that gives us a Blair witch type description; This footage was down in their attic a year later, et cetera, et cetera
Back to the handhelds as the narrator introduces us to where the cameras are supposedly placed in the house. It’s a kind of smart idea to give us an idea of what the space looks like and feels like, before we plunged too far into this story. They tried to inject some creepiness right away by introducing us to the slightly catatonic mother – staring at an old stuffed animal. We get a placard telling us that it’s “night one” and start watching footage that has been tinted green to look like nightvision. We go back and forth between this and and daytime footage of annoyed characters who don’t seem too pleased to see the camera. They talk about who they think might be in the house… or might be haunting it, and slowly e to things start to happen – a glass breaks, the television turns on, and a cross falls off the wall – at this point you can tell it’s going to be a slow burner. We get a peek inside the diary, with a plea for God to help the writer. They also sneak in what is meant to be a creepy sketch along with the question “why am I seeing this?”.
Sleepwalking begins at night three around 25 minutes in – and ominous message is written onto a glass coffee table. Around the same time, the wife starts talking about her feelings that something is there – something in the room with her when she goes to sleep, something pressing down on her and trapping her.
As we go further into the film, it stumbles into the typical pitfalls of a found footage haunting film – phenomena and that largely unseen or unremarkable, sounds in darkness that come off as stagehands banging on the walls of screen or actors simply screaming because it’s in the script. Even when they come up with a clever idea like footprints on the ceiling (and ultimately, where they come from), it’s undermined by immediately transitioning over to the mundane stuff like doors slamming and televisions turning on. They fail to reinforce those things with even creepier images . Moreover, the shaky cam work is haphazard and unfocused – even found footage works better when you storyboard and plan your shots. Someone had the beginnings of an idea here, and there are a couple of fun moments – such as when the mother and wife run off and discover the ghost has followed them, or when we get the revelation of where the footprints come from, there’s even one haunting that where the hits come fast and loud enough to keep you off balance, but not enough for a complete movie – There is a good way of making these kind of films, but this isn’t it.
This film maybe okay if you’re in the mood to do a found footage marathon with a bunch of different indie films or burning through a box set collection like this, but it certainly wouldn’t be the centerpiece and isn’t worth going out of your way for.