Friday, 22 October 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

Surfing on the popularity of the first one, this sequel - but actually this prequel - to the events of the first one tries it's best to deliver the same scares with lame results.

For those who have not yet seen the first Paranormal Activity, you're missing a real treat. Released in 2007 the film was shown around festival circuits to great acclaim, the cast was essentially two people, it was shot in the directors house and used very simple techniques to great effect. In fact, I would go as far as saying it's really a masterclass in film-making.

This might seem far-fetched but it's so clever in it's execution that any budding auteur ought to take note. Firstly, the narrative is simple and the 'monster' is really a metaphor for the relationship between Micah and Katie. The film also relies on your imagination to create fear, you're actually subconsciously interacting with the film, it's framing makes you look in places that you wouldn't normally find interesting, in fact you're looking for something in the shadows. It's open doors invokes a Hopper-esque sense of desperation and mystery with the depth of the image playing an important part in creating the tension. That's the real killer, the tension, there's more tension than anything Hitchcock could have done, and I don't say this lightly. You know watching every diary insert that you're about to see something and it's gradual development from an opening door, a light switching on to a more violent intrusive force makes every night shot more and more unbearable. It plays on the post-9/11 paranoia and terrorism-at-home American sensibility (which in fact is joked about in the sequel). Not only all this, but the sound, the simple effects and the 'possession' (a brainwashing of sorts) all create this horrible yet thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes of the fear of the unknown and no matter what anyone says, if you're at home by yourself at night you can freak yourself out by just thinking about it.

However, once Spielberg got a hold of it and wanted to release it internationally, he wanted to do different scenes and a different ending. Therefore, if you went to see this on the cinema or saw this on DVD recently, chances are it's Spielberg's monster that you saw. I would thoroughly recommend viewing the original, or at least watching the different endings on YouTube because the original ending is a million times better. Anyhow, it's the re-released 2009 version that this prequel draws from, which is important.

This might sound like a long-winded approach to dealing with the second film, but it's very important to make people aware of these issues because the problem with the second one is that it recreates, to a much less effect, almost exactly the same as what happens in the first one. The deal is Katie's sister has just had a baby boy with her new family she's married into, after a while things start going bump in the night as the monster tries to claim baby Hunter.

The problem is (and here's a SPOILER if you haven't seen the first one) you know you're not going to see the monster harassing them because of the first one. So every noise, every opening and shutting door is just stuff that you've seen before so you don't find it scary, instead you're waiting for the more hardcore stuff. However, all this ghoulish foreplay takes up about 70 minutes of the 90 minute film and there is a LOT of watching nothing, but you're watching it knowing not to look out for anything because you know you won't see anything. The idea of the baby being harassed yet guarded by a brave dog is a good one that doesn't get interesting until near the end and, unlike the original first one (not the remake), they get hassled during the daytime and the night-time. But it's everything we've seen before, dragging them away, opening doors and a ridiculous pool cleaner that keeps turning up outside of the pool (a machine not a man). However, there's something going on in the basement which I thought could turn into something interesting but instead becomes a REC wannabe that wasn't scary at all. Katie's sister becomes possessed and she is completely lame and the whole thing lacks all the originality, all the fear, tension and mystery that the first one thrived on. In fact, it was what made the first one any good, so if you take that away you're just watching people doing nothing and getting scared about tiny things.

The company have also not released the details of the cast which is trying to keep to the 'real' element of the first one (when it obviously cannot be real) as we know full well, with enough interviews, promotions etc. that it wasn't real. Why try and recreate the Blair Witch effect the first one had? 'Found footage'. We're not idiots! Who would actually think this was real? The girl was in 24 for God's sake.

During the film they try to create more of a backstory and a 'why' to all the attacks but I don't want to know why. The whole point is it could happen potentially to anyone and even though the first one made it clear this stuff had happened to Katie before, that's all I needed to know, I don't want to know all the details of their family tree, of deals with the devil or whatever, MYSTERY remember? When it coincides with the first film it is completely crap and the ending made me want to throw something at the screen. It took everything that made the first one great and shat on it, in fact it might have potentially corrupted the experience of the first one for me by being so shit. I'll never want to watch this again, in fact I'm really angry about it.

Overall, there were a few good 'scares' and when I say a few, I mean like 2. But if you liked the first one and you want to run the risk that watching this could ruin the first film for you, then go ahead, but I thoroughly recommend you leave this film alone. However, if you haven't seen the first one and you want to check this out you might find it more enjoyable than I, so keeping that in mind I have to give it an extra mark as this could be a new experience for you; but I just cannot get away from the fact that Hollywood has again tried to suck something dry until it tastes rotten. Thank you Spielberg for fucking up another good film memory. Dickhead.

Rating: 3/10


  1. you said the film originally came out in 2007 and the 2009 version is redone in parts? if its better then where can i find it. PA was pretty good i thought, not great tho, maybe a 6 out of 10....but i really wanted it to be awesome and was let down. if i can see the original 2007 version that would be sweet....

  2. to be honest, I downloaded it and I'm not sure if you can 'officially' find it anywhere. The differences in the 2009 version are subtle apart from the ending. For example, they never get harrassed during the day in the original but there's a short scene suggesting they do in the 2009 version. Little things ...

  3. hey thank god your review is absolutely perfect if i was to write a review it would say basically the same thing i'm very impressed you are now my second favourite movie reviewer and i read a lot of reviews. nice work

  4. Good to hear. But who is number one?!