‘Paranormal Island’ is Dead in the Water

After all that nonsense, 'Paranormal Island' concludes with a frustratingly obtuse epilogue that doesn't really address anything that happened to the characters.

Paranormal Island makes its first glaring mistake early on. An introductory sequence takes us back to 1927, with a high stakes poker game taking place between two rival bar owners. The game ends with one of the players declaring "a straight still beats a flush." If you are at all familiar with the rules of poker, then you know that this is patently untrue. If the production had bothered to do even the most basic Internet search, then they would have known this, too. But the filmmakers apparently never got that far. The rest of Paranormal Island follows suit, the movie simply refusing to be decent.

Mike, Jerry and Laurie have gotten jobs as bartenders on Blarney Island, a manmade island in the middle of Lake Michigan. Mike, who is a student of the paranormal, is also hoping to gather proof that the legends about the island aren't true. Sadly for Mike and his friends, the stories about a violent spirit haunting the island after hours turn out to be frightfully true. The three are trapped on the island with a couple of locals, and are soon running for their lives from a threat they can't even see.

It takes a while before the movie gets to the main action. The movie squanders its first act with pointless exposition. Time that could have been spent creating relationships between characters or developing a sense of dread is instead wasted on these interminable scenes of partying on the island. The film wastes its time on bit characters that don't factor at all into the main plot. Meanwhile, the main characters are never deepened enough to make them worth caring about. Each of them is given at most one character trait, which they play and replay endlessly through the runtime.

And when the movie does get to the business of trying to scare the audience, it doesn't do a very good job of that, either. The sequences are all built to startle, with a mostly invisible threat just suddenly pulling characters off screen. There's no suspense through any of this, no sense of impending danger. The characters are safe until they aren't, and they can't really do anything to better their position. They run without direction, make choices without any tangible consequences. It all feels very dumb and pointless.

And the film has nothing to offer on the production side of things. The camera work is generally pretty awful. The night shots look particularly bad, with digital artifacts overpowering the frames. The threat's point of view is represented by a camera with a fish eye lens, and that doesn't help matters at all. It just looks really silly. The young cast is completely forgettable, the actors unable to leave much of an impression at all. It is only veteran Lance Henriksen that leaves much of a mark on this movie, the older actor bringing a measure of b-movie gravity to a underwritten role.

After all that nonsense, Paranormal Island concludes with a frustratingly obtuse epilogue that doesn't really address anything that happened to the characters. We don't even get to see the characters. We don't get to see the real fallout of the events. The film seems to be trying to make a really weak point, to contrition an ending that allows Lance Henriksen to say one last gravelly line. It's the final nail in the coffin for this movie, which pretty much started out dead in the water.

My Rating:


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