This is a first for the series, a movie that is readily available on YouTube, posted there by the filmmaker. So, if you haven’t checked this movie out I would actually recommend that you take an hour and a bit, and check it out. It’s short, and well worth your time. With that in mind, let’s go ahead and talk about it shall we?
The time I first encountered the Paranormal Activity series was a number of years ago when I was living in Vancouver. I had heard good things about the film, and managed to get my hands on a copy of it. That night, alone in my room, I sat on in my bed, in the dark, with headphones on, in the tiny little basement suite that I lived in at the time, and scared the absolute living shit out of myself. It was an experience that cemented my (admittedly misguided) love for the series, and set a standard for found-footage films that none since have really managed to recapture. I tell this story because, of course, something has managed to recapture the feeling of dread and discomfort that I got from the first Paranormal Activity movie, and it all came from a tiny little YouTube release called Rorschach.
It’s worth saying up front here, for those of you who adamantly hate found-footage style films that this absolutely won’t be for you. It embraces the format, and does great things with it, but it is still a found-footage film in the truest sense of the term. So, with that in mind, if you couldn’t possibly give the time of day to a movie like this, I’d recommend giving it a hard pass.
For the rest of you, the thing that Rorschach does so well is set up the atmosphere. This is a hell of a slow burn, and it seems to relish in playing up your expectations and then subverting them. There is a clear love for horror, and a commitment to the style of film that they’re making feeling genuine. I found myself practically begging the movie to jump-scare me, and just get it over with already. It just doesn’t do it, it forces you to stick with it and does not let you go, even for a moment.
There are some predictable moments, particularly when it comes to the young girl’s doll, but they really do manage to be effective and scary anyways. That said, there is one moment in particular that almost undercuts itself by showing you the same reveal twice, as if to say “Hey, did you see that?”. The moment was so effective that showing it again just felt unnecessary and detracted from the moment as a whole, which was really too bad. Overall though, I really don’t have a lot of complaints, more just small things that I notice that fall under the nit-picking category more than anything else.
The actors really help the movie work as well as it does, they all feel like real people and not as if they’re reading a script. The characters feel genuine, and even behave in ways that felt really believable. This is a small detail, but characters didn’t burst into terrified screams every time anything happened, but rather ran or tensed up, the reactions felt like genuine fear, rather than the attempt to make the audience afraid as well, and this works so much better. The chemistry between everyone is very believable, and no one is inhumanely charming or evil, and it all just adds to the very real atmosphere that is present here. Credit to director C.A. Smith, who has more work available on his YouTube channel that I plan to check out.
I’m sure there will be many complaints of “nothing happens” or “it’s too boring” from many horror fans who are used to their films being a haunted house ride, but this one really worked for me. The scares are limited, sure, but they are the result of some really effectively built tension. I sit here now writing this, and constantly looking over my shoulder, feeling nervous to make the trip down the dark hallway to my room. So, I’ve decided to watch some comedies in the mean time and make myself feel better.
It’s a damn spooky movie, and I recommend it.
MY RATING: ****