Thursday, 28 October 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

Kristi Rey, sister of Paranormal Activity 1's Katie, has just bought home her newborn son, Hunter, to the home she shares with her husband Dan, her step-daughter Ali, housekeeper Martine and family dog Abby. After an apparent break-in, the family install security camera around the house. But what the cameras begin to capture is seemingly unimaginable: Strange noises, items moving on their own, and unexplainable events which seem to be revolving around the new arrival...

Paranormal Activity was one of the simplest, original and scary movies of last year. Shot on a low budget in the directors own house on handheld cameras, it took the idea of the 'found footage' film and made it genuine, a mile away from your run-of-the-mill Blair Witch Project copies. No overacting, no outrageous scenarios, and it's not completely trying too hard every 2 minutes; the film plays out slowly and effectively over 90 minutes, delivering shocks at just the right times. To put it short, there was a reason why this film stood out amongst all the others. Paranormal Activity 2 sticks to the all the same principals, and tries to recreate the same atmosphere of the first, but unfortunately it just gets the timing all wrong.

Let me start off by saying Paranormal Activity 2 is an odd film in that it's a sequel... which is actually a prequel. It's a sprequel. Set roughly 60 days before the death of Micah Sloat in the first film, this film shows where the demon plaguing the Rey sisters first settled before it terrorized Katie and Micah and also explains why the demon is attacking their family in the first place. Trying not to give away spoilers here, but the end of the film actually occurs AFTER the events in Paranormal Activity 1, making this sequel the bread in the Paranormal Activity sandwich; explaining what happened before and after PA1 which I thought was very clever, though whether or not it leaves a door open for a possible third film is questionable. I'll leave it to Paramount to screw things up by demanding Paranormal Activity 3. Seriously, the franchise is given a good ending here, don't drag it out like Lions Gate did to Saw.

The acting is pretty standard across the board and it has to be to deliver the feeling of realism. There are no exceptional performances, though it is of course good to see the dog, Abby, doing everything it needs to on cue, as well as the baby, Hunter, which is important to the development of the story here. The difference is that this time around, we have professional actors filling the roles: Sprague Grayden (Kristi Rey) has appeared in various TV dramas and Molly Ephraim (step-daughter Ali) has been in a number of Broadway plays. Anything less than professional from these guys would have sloppy, naturally.

With a different director at the helm and with a bigger budget, things could have been dramatically different this time around. Somewhat surprisingly, things are quite restrained here, with the only real evidence of a bigger budget being a larger house as the setting and the addition of 6 more fixed cameras alongside the digital camcorder. The biggest difference though is the sense of timing throughout the film. In PA1, things went along at a nice, steady pace, gradually building up to more and more violent behaviour from the demon. In PA2, things don't move at a steady pace at all. For the first hour, things move extremely slow, and my God do I mean slow. We're talking glacier slow here. Continental drift slow. Every now and again, something minor happens, yes, and it certainly does get more and more aggressive as time goes on, but you're left wondering where on Earth the next big moment is coming from. Then, in the last half hour, it seems as if even the director is getting bored of this and ramps things up to 11. Trust me, it goes from 0-60 in about 4.2 seconds. It's a shame, because the ideas are there, but the execution is somewhat poor.

Overall, it's hard to say anything new about Paranormal Activity 2 which hasn't already been said about Paranormal Activity 1. Apart from the new characters and the explanation of back story, it's pretty much the same film. Same amount of shock and scare, same kind of uneasy feeling about going back to your dark, empty house once its over. The problem is it just isn't carried out as efficiently as the first film. It certainly sits nicely with its predecessor, but ultimately comes off as inferior. This is a franchise that's delivered proper shocks so far and is actually somewhat entertaining, so here's hoping that we don't get reach Paranormal Activity 6. I like these films, please don't go Nightmare on Elm Street on our asses.

Rating: ***