In a world of shameless and constant bandwagonning, where any miner originality is immediately scooped up and sold a hundred different ways by every hyena on the street, something like The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill aroused the cynic in me, and I saw absolutely no merit in what it claimed to offer.
I am sure that I would not be alone in this feeling. Everything in its initial appearance makes it seem like the most derivative and Johnny-Come-Lately entry in the “found footage” haunted house genre. And yet, against all expectation, this film was a bit more original than about 90 percent of what I’ve seen before in this type of film.
What immediately raised my interest was how genuine all the footage looked. The film is framed as an investigative journalism piece into a mysterious Black Mass that was supposedly held in the church of the small town of Clophill in England. What became apparent quickly though, is that this really was footage with real life people in that town. Taking more inspiration from Blair Witch Project than Paranormal Activity, PD frames itself as half documentary/half horror movie, with surprising results.
The actual scares, on their own, are not that frightening, but the level of realism and believability that the documentary aspect gives it makes all the difference. In many ways, this film is still highly derivative, but it at least understood the important part of this kind of horror: people want to feel the unease that this could all have happened just down the road from them, and PD gives that feeling very strongly. The production of the film can sometimes feel a bit more art school than Hollywood, but the directors and actors had a vision for their little movie, and good for them. They could have been much cheaper and lazier, and while they didn’t do everything right, they can hold their heads up high that they tried.