There's a long list of possible reasons why any particular low-budget genre film might not get "hit it big" with widespread distribution and popularity. For every Paranormal Activity, there's a few dozen The Brokens and Red White and Blues. Sometimes a movie might be too cerebral or too grim. Other times simple dumb luck is to blame. It's tough out there for an indie flick.

I suspect that the nifty little British horror movie The Possession of David O'Reilly may have fallen victim to a bout of bad luck. Now granted, the news isn't all bad: the movie was recently picked up stateside by IFC Films, which almost immediately sent it to its Video-on-Demand channel, where it is currently available. But I wonder if it might not have done better for itself if it didn't bear a strong (albeit superficial) resemblance to Paranormal Activity (despite having been conceived years ago and shot well before that film hit it big): a mostly invisible menace haunts a young couple and their friend in the couple's apartment over the span of a couple of nights.

Unlike the other films I've highlighted in similar posts, I'm ambivalent about The Possession of David O'Reilly. But it's interesting enough that horror enthusiasts owe it to themselves to check it out. The similarities to Paranormal Activity, as I say, pretty much stop with the conceptual. First of all, though writer-director Andrew Cull is fond of the POV shot, David O'Reilly is not shot in a first-person or mockumentary style. Second, if you dug the creepy vagueness of Paranormal Activity -- just what is this demon that leaves those creepy three-toed footsteps? -- you might appreciate the way that David O'Reilly transcends vagueness and becomes almost abstract. I don't want to give too much away, but the presence that torments the title character and his friends is pretty clearly not a ghost or a demon in the conventional sense. Whatever it is, it's totally alien -- and thus, much scarier. And interestingly, though we arguably learn less about David O'Reilly's villains than about Paranormal Activity's, we actually see a bit more, in terrifying, suggestive glimpses.

The movie has some fairly significant problems (mostly having to do with pacing and the execution of some of the big set pieces), but it's definitely worth checking out if you have some patience with this sort of thing. IFC will be running it on demand for the next couple months.
CATEGORIES Movies, Cinematical