Horror | NR | 2014 | 1h 23m ・ NETFLIX
Since the release of Paranormal Activity, and even earlier The Blair Witch Project, the found footage movie genre has been oversaturated with poorly made “me too” clones. So when I saw that Germany had their own take with 2014’s The Presence (Die Präsenz), I thought I’d take one for the team by giving it a viewing, going into it with pretty low expectations.
Could a German take on the genre offer up something that the countless other found footage films have yet to achieve… a film that is somewhat watchable? Germany is after all the home of the horror movie genre.
When the fearless and spook-loving Markus hears of an uber-haunted castle that his good friend Lukas has access to, the two plan a trip to the relic to witness the haunts for themselves and also film the experience for proof. Markus’ girlfriend Rebecca is also along for the ride… only she’s convinced to tag along for the week adventure without knowing where they are going or why.
Once they get to the well maintained castle out in the middle of nowhere and miles from the next human existence, the budding ghost hunters scope out the vast property with their camera gear to find the best places to set up shop to make sure any paranormal activities don’t go undocumented. And Rebecca? Well she’s already second guessing her blind decision to come along as she is clued in on the real purpose of the excursion and the horrid past of the castle’s previous inhabitants.
What follows are sequences of shaky cameras and night vision footage of the three wandering around chasing after possible activity, and of course sleeping, as we wait to see if any thing moves or if any shadows appear as the droning sound effects suggest horror is imminent.
It doesn’t take long before the spirits trapped within the castle make their presence known in loud and dramatic ways and the three continue to put up with the terrors as the days go on, despite shit getting worse every day, until things spiral so out of control that only one ending is in sight.
When I first saw Paranormal Activity in the theaters I thought it was brilliant. Then Paranormal Activity 2 quickly came around. Then a third. All while every movie studio was suddenly trying to mimic the formula to make their own feeble attempt at the quick cash prize. I get why they do it. These films are easy to make, barely require a budget, and if they flop the expectations weren’t very high to begin with.
So how does The Presence fit into the mix? It offers very little new to the genre, relies on the classic loud noises to create the shock and scare, it’s extremely predictable… and the crazy part is that I kind of liked it.
Perhaps it is because it stayed true to the formula that worked in the original Paranormal Activity without feeling the need to find some new and flashy gimmick, while the setting of an old castle in the middle of the woods gave it an added punch on the fear-factor scale. What The Presence was able to do that so many films like it fail at is capture a sense of the anger and emotion of the spirit itself.
I also liked the added touch of the spirit being able to take control over and manipulate the camera by interject pieces of its memory onto the recording, giving us a brief look into the past horrors the castle once witnessed.
Where the film found less success is in connecting some of the dots and relying too much on cutting away to the next night as soon as something unexplainable presented itself. BOOM! All hell is breaking loose! CUT its nighttime and everyone’s peacefully back asleep as if none of the previous terrors took place.
Of course a movie like this has a ton of logical flaws… Why doesn’t Rebecca just pack up and leave when she clearly wants out? Markus got his evidence the first day… how much more does he need? Why do they keep blaming each other for mysterious happenings when they all have very clearly witnessed they aren’t alone? But someone watching this movie isn’t necessarily looking for a flawless storyline… they are looking for a scare and this movie has a few in store.
Overall, if you are a fan of the found footage craze, you probably won’t be disappointed by The Presence, and might actually like it a lot more than the other crap still being released today. If you hated Paranormal Activity and are not a fan of sudden loud noises… then you best stay away!
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OUT OF 10