By: Brendan Graham
Social media today has become a race to get the most followers and likes, with the ultimate goal becoming an influencer. It seems every day more and more actors, streamers, bloggers, and even movie reviewers are trying to become the next big thing. Sometimes they're willing to do dangerous things to become popular online, and to potentially start a career in the entertainment industry. Playing with forces beyond our control and understanding could be a sure way to go viral, but sometimes it can summon something BEYOND PARANORMAL. (See what I did there?)
In the film, Lily (Cortney Palm), or as her internet fans know her, "Box Girl Lily," has agreed to have her life constantly filmed in the home of the sleazy director named Chaz (Oliver Cooper), who has cast her in a part for a new horror film that is currently in pre-production. Also staying at the director’s home is Lily’s boyfriend Ray (Ryan Donowho), who is a writer working on his current manuscript, with a deadline looming over his head. As part of her contract agreement, Lily has to create content and gather as many likes as possible to potentially get a bigger bonus at the end of production.
She tries just about everything - to little avail - to gather attention, including putting Ray into uncomfortable positions by going too far with some practice for the role she’s about to play - a medium who is also a dominatrix named Roxanne. After receiving a box from the director that contains a strange statue, Ray starts having cosmic dreams about an ancient civilization that begins to feel frighteningly real (although as a writer, he’s supposed to have a vivid imagination right?). Even more worrisome, Lily starts to become more obsessed with the role she is about to play, while also showing more aggression towards Ray. Is trying to become an influencer and superstar driving Lily insane, or is something much stranger happening to her? Going any further than that can land in spoiler territory, so I will leave the story there.
I’ll start by saying that I appreciated the effort our main duo provided. The couple feels like they have a genuine connection, delivering humor and heart into their characters. Palm gives it her all, especially during possession sequences, and is very convincing as a struggling social media content creator. Ryan Donowho is convincing as a writer who is struggling to keep up with his deadlines, while also supporting the career of the woman he loves. I also always appreciate a movie that features genre favorite Clint Howard, this time as a guest on a podcast Ray is watching throughout the film.
The effects are surprisingly elaborate at times, both practical and computer-generated, especially towards the later portions of the film, when we start to see the body horror elements come into play. There are a few sequences that manage to elicit some chills, including a scene that involves the death of a flock of birds. Though the later twists are a bit on the predictable side, I still appreciated the level of dedication to just how bonkers the situation gets into our third act. The last few minutes of the movie get incredibly gory, and it is glorious. Fantastic makeup designs are a highlight of this feature.
However, for the most part BEYOND PARANORMAL struggles. Scenes that were probably not meant to be humorous ended up being quite comical, and vice versa, the comedy often falls flat. The dialogue can be too self-aware of horror movie tropes, and unlike films like Scream that implement that knowledge cleverly, it drags our ability to follow the story closely down when it falls into those same tropes. It can end up feeling unnatural, and sometimes even cringeworthy.
The rest of the cast is all over the place as far as performances go, with the director Chaz portrayed as an over-the-top creep that tries too hard, and ends up being distracting, although that may have more to do with the dialogue issue mentioned before. The pacing of the film feels off too, it builds some tension but loses it immediately with a fake-out scare or by suddenly cutting to a different scene without establishing more of the danger the characters are in. There were also some scenes of sexuality and nudity that felt very exploitive and not necessary.
The film is a frantic mix of multiple different movies that have been sewn together, a little horror and sci-fi, a lot of great ideas on paper, that don’t always execute well on screen together. I feel like this movie would have worked better as a found-footage-style flick, which would have added more tension and keep up with the need for the characters to constantly film everything. It’s also worth warning some audience members who have sensitivity issues with flashing lights, throughout the film, there is quite a bit of them.
BEYOND PARANORMAL has some interesting ideas and elements that are genuinely well thought out, but can’t quite combine them all for a cohesive picture. It may not be the best movie, but often it’s a fun movie, that does take you on a bit of a crazy ride. I think it does have some potential on being a cult classic, kind of like The Room. So invite over some friends, order a pizza, pour some drinks, and experience BEYOND PARANORMAL for yourself.
BEYOND PARANORMAL is now available on digital platforms.