Fox // 2013 // 80 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // January 24th, 2013
Based on true events...that may not have happened.
One of the greatest shots in the history of cinema occurs when Ash (Bruce Campbell, Burn Notice) goes mad in the cabin in Evil Dead II. It's an amazing shot technically because we circle him, but it's more amazing because Bruce Campbell does a perfect job of going from screaming horror to screaming laughter, which demonstrates just how closely horror and laughter are aligned. It's not surprising, then, that recent years have produced more horror parodies than any other spoof genre. Scary Movie is the most popular of the bunch, launching several sequels in its wake. Now, 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo horns in on that territory with a pop-culture mashup that doesn't have enough laughs to justify its running time.
The basic plot of 30 Nights is a parody of Paranormal Activity, where a couple moves into a haunted house (which just happens to be the wife's childhood abode where her father murdered the whole cast of The Artist) with their children. Once they realize it's haunted, they call in a series of specialists, who search for ghosts and install cameras. Shenanigans, predictably, ensue.
30 Nights has two things going for it. The first is the sheer fact that if you throw enough footage around, eventually you'll find something funny. That means, at least for this viewer, there is a laugh in this flick about every 10 minutes. Though the "jokes" fly fast and thick for 80 minutes, most of them are a swing-and-a-miss. Most of the humor for me comes out of the absurd juxtapositions that the film shows us. My favorite is probably the moment when a character opens her refrigerator door to find a live turkey in it. It's silly and unexpected, and works in the context of a Paranormal Activity spoof. I can only assume that the hope is that different viewers will find different jokes funny, but I can imagine watching 30 Nights with friends gets awkward as each of you laugh at a different joke. Of course, it's not just jokes the film throws around -- there's also a bit of nudity to be had as well.
The other thing the film has going for it is this DVD presentation. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is quite excellent. Black levels are solid throughout (which is important when spoofing a film series that seems to take place almost entirely in the dark), and detail is well-rendered. Colors are appropriately saturated, and the only noise that appears seems to be an intentional mimicry of the night vision employed by the spoofed films. The 5.1 surround track isn't quite as impressive, but it gets the job done. Dialogue is clean and clear from the center. There's a bit of surround use but less than I expected. Finally, the film's music can be a bit overwhelming at times, leading to a good bit of remote jockeying.
Sadly, the film's extras do not match the presentation in terms of quality. The disc's lone extra is a short making-of featurette. It's not bad in itself, but its inclusion feels like a rush job, which is also the problem that plagues the rest of the film.
There are plenty of good ways to parody a movie or series of movies, such as taking something metaphoric from a film and making it literal or recreating a scene from a film and changing the tone. 30 Nights doesn't do those things. In fact, the problem starts with the film's complete title, 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's very much as if the creators of this spoof think that it's enough just to mention or gesture towards a film to make a joke. So the daughter is a Lisbeth Salandar lookalike, and that's pretty much the joke.
The film is about as low as lowest common denominator can get. Parodying the Paranormal Activity flicks is setting one's sights a bit too low. They're already absurd and comedic all on their own, and to "make fun" of them is a waste of time. For the more serious or well-respected films (like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the parodies included here have no teeth and nothing to say about films except "Wouldn't it be funny to put Lisbeth in suburbia?" It's a good germ of an idea, but the film doesn't develop these jokes enough to make them actually land with something to say.
Will 30 Nights curve your spine and make you go blind? Probably not. Will you find at least a couple of laughs in these 80 minutes? Probably. That tepid recommendation is about all that 30 Nights earns.
Guilty, but that's the idea.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R