Pi reviews PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (2010)
So, a couple of years ago, this little film called Paranormal Activity came out. It started off as a typical indie release, only opening in a few cities. Then, this alleged grass-roots internet campaign began, where you could demand to see it in your city. Nevermind that they didn’t show you shit about the film. All they showed you was the audiences terrified reaction to watching it. Internet sheep the world over fell for it hook, line and sinker and before long, Paranormal Activity was in every multiplex across the country and making money hand over fist. They didn’t get mine.
It reeked of Blair Witch to me, which is the only film I can ever remember making me so angry that I literally wanted to burn the theatre down. The camcorder footage, the groundswell of public demand, it was all too similar. I ended up seeing the flick with my teenage daughter a year later on DVD. We watched it alone in the dark, late at night and it scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t sleep and I had to turn all the lights in the house on. I watch horror movies like bitches drink Starbucks. Every. Goddamn. Day. They don’t scare me. I can count on one hand the movies that have actually scared me into losing sleep. One hand that’s missing a digit. So needless to say, I had respect for the film after that. When Paranormal 2 was announced, I rolled my eyes. I didn’t see how they could capture lightning in a bottle twice. I had to see it though and what did I get.
An experience that was very different and yet very much the same.
First things first, if you didn’t like Paranormal Activity, you’re not going to like the sequel. It’s essentially the same film. PA2 follows Kristie, who is the sister of Katie, the woman from the first film. Kristie lives in Carlsbad with her tool of a husband, his teenage daughter and her newborn son. Already, tool mate is a recurring theme. My strongest feelings regarding the first film was that Micah, Katie’s boyfriend, was the biggest douchebag in recent memory. I didn’t mourn his passing. Kristie’s husband is a tool as well, but not nearly as annoying as Micah. The film opens with their home seemingly being burglarized. Nothing is missing, but the house is trashed. This leads tool-husband to install security cameras throughout the house, which gives us our footage. It also creates one of the films flaws.
I understand that what makes a scary movie scary is building tension. Slow builds are usually the best, but molasses is another thing. There are way too many static shots of the family pool and the stairwell. Every night in the movie, the film switches between the six cameras in the house. Throughout the ENTIRE movie, nothing ever happens at the pool. It’s an annoying red herring, especially considering how many times you see that fucking pool. I would say the same thing about the staircase, but something happens there. Once. Out of about 45 shots.
My other problems with the security cameras is that they’re not consistent. Now the family also has a camcorder, but there are shots and angles in this film that come from neither the fixed cameras or the family handheld. There’s not a lot of them, but there are a few and when you’re gonna do the whole “found footage” type film, you need to stick to your premise. Most people won’t discover it though if they buy into the film.
I think that’s what it comes down to. Can you buy in? Maybe that’s why I’m so immune to horror films. I just can’t see them ever happening. Even slasher movies with realistic killers are proposterous to me. For some reason I bought into Paranormal one on some level because it scared me. I bought into this film as well, because once I got home, all the lights came on and I stayed up all night until the sun came up. What scared me? I HAVE NO IDEA.
The movie’s not really all that scary. I don’t think it’s paced nearly as well as the first film and honestly, it plods along for the first hour with barely anything happening. When the “scary” stuff goes down, it’s almost the same notes as the first film. They tie in the first film, explain the possible origins of the entity and then proceed to a [REC]/Paranormal Activity mash-up of a finale. Go figure though, I was scared. Maybe it’s the fact that I sleep with women and the thought of them getting possessed and swaying above the bed while I’m asleep is something I can actually see happening having experienced the real-life horror of demonic women. Maybe it’s because everything in these films is all so normal and mundane until it isn’t.
Watching both films in two different ways was an experience as well. I honestly thought the reason I got so freaked out on the first one was all alone at home, lights off, late at night and my daughter was freaked out, so I had some sort of sympathy scare. This time though, I saw it in a packed theatre, where most of the theatre was FLAT OUT TALKING the whole time. And even crazier, it didn’t bother me at all. Usually it makes me homicidal, but this was one of those events where it seemed okay. Like we were all just reminding ourselves it was just a stupid movie and we were all safe because we were in a big public place and those stupid people on the screen were trapped in their haunted house. Like maybe we all wanted to forget that eventually we were going to have to go home.
Or maybe, since it was midnight on a Friday, the whole theatre was just drunk,
In any event, it worked both ways. At home and in the theatre and that in and of itself is rare. Paranormal Activity 2 is not a good movie. It’s paced shitty and it’s really unnecessary. It breaks very little new ground and basically uses the same devices as the original with different characters. But….
It scared me. And isn’t that what it’s supposed to do?
My Grade: C+