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Monday, April 8, 2019

3 Movies Ruined by their Endings, pt 2: Paranormal Activity, and The Shape of Water

So the first movie, Saturn 3, was damaged by not paying attention to the thematic threads woven together. The next two share their flaws in their characters. You could blame the characters in the first as well, but the issue seems more overarching, more systemic.

Paranormal Activity 
This one bloomed into a franchise, which suggests a certain sustaining popularity. There seem to be at least seven films, but it's hard to tell what belongs and what is a copy-shark, coasting in its wake. Paranormal Activity is itself a copy-shark, but actually better than its predecessor, Blair Witch Project. Both are found footage, but this one is actually spooky with characters you can at least feel for.

The story is simple: A couple cohabit, but she has a supernatural being who follows her. The male partner plans to come up with a way to stop her supernatural being from its pursuit.

Even if the ending flops, the movie is worth watching. The trailer captures the movie's spirit, but I wonder if it shows too many cards. Skip the trailer unless you have no plans of watching it.
What makes this one lose a few quality points is its unawareness of the characters it's created. The ending has little to do with its characters. Spooky, but doubts linger since this didn't spring from the characters it laid down.

The Shape of Water 
This one was a critical darling. Having loved Pan's Labyrinth, I swooned to the atmosphere, history, moving plight of its quirky cast, but then the climax hit. The ending was so awful, I didn't know at first what had gone wrong. I must have been swept away by the work that I missed something obvious in retrospect.

This story is also simple. A merman is captured by a mean government man. A mute cleaning maid falls for him. Probably you can guess the outcome.

The trailer here captures the beauty of the film without giving much away--at least that the premise itself doesn't already give away.
Guessing the outcome is the problem. Sometimes you can see the outcome coming and still appreciate the film. Not so here, the film's defect is laid bare. Our villain, though full of his own quirks, is still a stereotype. The ending hit the expected target and failed to surprise. How many B-movies have used this same guy? If we'd been handed a character of nuance and/or complexity to begin with (or leave out a baddie altogether), we'd have never arrived here. Perhaps we'd have had a work of genius. Right now it's just a beautiful promise. Maybe it's best to turn the movie off before you get to the ending, and imagine your own.

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