Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

OCTOBER 22, 2010

GENRE: HAUNTED HOUSE, MOCKUMENTARY
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

I am proud to be one of the first to proclaim my love for the first Paranormal Activity, which I saw three years ago (two before its theatrical release) at the Screamfest film festival, where it had its first ever screening if memory serves. It was a brilliantly executed, out of nowhere surprise that truly scared me at times and made one of the most natural fits ever for a "found footage" type film. Paranormal Activity 2, obviously, does not have that lack of any sort of expectation, or novelty, going for it - but does it measure up regardless?

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Well, no, it doesn't. While it's a good followup and will more than likely earn Paramount back their investment in about 4 hours, there are some blunders that kept it from being another home run for me (let's call it a triple that the opposing coach would have challenged). The biggest is that it's a goddamn prequel. As I've said before, prequels are not something I usually look forward to, because more often than not, the fate of the protagonists is known. Any action scene with Obi-Wan in the three Star Wars prequels was just dull to me - I know he won't even be injured, let alone killed, because he grows old with genuine class. Here it's a bit different - we know our folks are safe because our protagonist is Katie's sister from the first movie.

See, throughout the film, Katie visits, so it's obvious that her and her sister are close. I would think any major harm that came to them would be something on Katie's mind (in the original film), and/or if they all just disappeared she would notice. Perhaps if things were occurring simultaneously with the events of the first film, it would work, because we could assume each sister was too preoccupied to keep up with the other one's drama, but no - just in case you forgot the dates that the first film occurred, we get a full screen graphic telling us that a particular scene is 60 days before Micah's death. Now I might be a bit off but I believe the first film took place over 3 weeks (21 days), so we have at least 30 or so days in this film before anything major will occur. Thus, some of the scares just don't have that same sort of impact that the first one did.

Another decision that, to me, hampered some of the dread, was that in this one we have six stationary surveillance cameras around the house, plus a regular hand-held video camera (way to go, Paramount, you've become the first studio to rip off The Asylum). I really missed that "Oh no...." feeling that would occur whenever they cut to that shot of Micah and Katie's bedroom, because they spread themselves too thin here (plus have too many "Night #_" title cards followed by absolutely nothing happening). Hell, two of the cameras never once show anything scary, and it's obvious that the film is focused on the baby, so while stuff occasionally does happen in those other angles, it's really only when they cut to the nursery that I could feel myself getting tensed up the way I did in the original.

And they might luck out here, but I recognized the main actress! Sprague Grayden was on two of my favorite genre shows of the past decade: John Doe and Jericho, in addition to appearances in other stuff (the President's daughter on the last season of 24, for example). Part of what made the original work so well is that I truly believed these were real people. Obviously not being menaced by ghosts, but I 100% thought that Micah and Katie (their real names, by the way) were a real couple. Not the case here - it's the girl from Jericho playing someone named Kristy. So that was a bummer - luckily neither show was exactly a Nielsen darling so it's possible many folks won't recognize her.

But I'm guessing all most folks care about is being scared, and I'm happy to report that in this department the film is a success. There are at least three moments that caused me to jump or yell, and the final scenes (you know, when you can finally get the feeling that something truly bad might happen) are just as unnerving and creepy as the ones in the original. The story here is paper-thin, and involves some ret-conning of the first film's narrative that is kind of cool but also sort of diminishes the film's power, but it doesn't make it any less of a BOO! moment when Kristy gets pulled away from her baby, or when her husband tries to find her and the kid in the basement.

I also loved trying to find the scares, hoping for the sort of "whoa... did I just see that?" subtle scares that the first one excelled at (shadow on the door). I swear, my eyes never stopped darting around, looking for things in the background or whatever. It's definitely a sequel that not only counts on you seeing the original, but sort of uses that familiarity to its advantage at times (it's funny how the entire theater goes "ohhhhh...." when the first night falls - the horror movie equivalent of Kramer making his first appearance in an episode of Seinfeld).

But more often than not nothing would happen, and day would come without incident. Thus, I felt myself relaxing too often in the film's first hour or so. It also takes a while to get to the first real scare, which sort of makes sense in the prequel side of things, but I mean, come on guys - we know the gimmick this time. That's going to make repeat viewings less enticing - now I know where the jumps are, and I'm not going to be creeped out to make up for it.

Judging from the reactions, I'm in the minority for not thinking it's just as good as the original. That's fine by me, and I hope the film is a huge success. Most of my issues are likely to not even be noticed by a huge chunk of the audience, and even if they do that doesn't necessarily mean they'll agree. It's a damn fine time at the movies and perfect Halloween fare (and not in 3D, yay!*); but to me it was just a bit too similar and not as thoughtfully executed as its predecessor.

What say you?

*Fans of Katie's, er, assets, might wish it WAS in 3D during a key scene in a pool, if you catch my meaning (which is: she has a great rack).

17 comments:

  1. Throughout reading your review, my entire thought process was "I don't even really care if the movie is as good, or as scary as the original. Katie has great boobs." Your last line won me over sir.

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  2. It was the father that made me go 'eh' myself, didn't buy him as much as the others. Fully agree on there being too many early nights where not enough happens. One could have easily been cut/combined and they could have ditched the camera that shot the front walkway.

    That said, yeah definitely creepy and some nice scares once it got going. I jumped, I was tempted to look away, it was fun. A bit heavy handed with the foreshadowing but that mostly worked in it's favor. By the time the basement door opened it was just as much 'oh shit!' as it was 'finally!'.

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  3. SPOILERS AHEAD: The formula and scenes were repeated too closely, and the movie felt like a flat retread. The first hour was unbearably dull and a missed opportunity for actual storytelling (18 scenes with a pool cleaner, really?). I expected something unexpected – like opening with the haunting already in mid-progress. I didn’t mind the prequel element had the overall timeline been tighter.

    (Logistically this would be impossible since the reason this particular haunting is set in motion is a newborn. You can’t really act with a newborn, and audiences get really turned off by infants in peril. Imagine if the haunting started while the sister is pregnant then having the possessed Katie “force” a delivery at the end.)

    There were a couple of very good scares, and I liked slow unveiling story of the two sisters (coven?) . You can see where part 3 will go (exorcism?). It all sounds so much better on paper.

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  4. something about paranormal movies that just make me scare so easily, I can watch mountains of gory, psycho movies and not even flinch, you give me something I can't see coming and I jump a mile. The first had me jumping all around the cinema seats (much to the amusement of fellow cinema goers and my partner) I have to give this one a go even if it is not as good as the first just to see if it can scare me as much. Have to have a good scare these days.

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  5. I really wish it would have ended with the cut to Katie and Micah at their house. The killing of the father and jump at the camera were over the top. But overall I was please.

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  6. Aw shucks, I really liked the dad's work. He was funny and credible, same way I felt about Micah in the first one. Although that baby is the worst fucking actor I've ever seen. Seriously, who is that kid blowing over at Paramount, amirite?

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  7. I had two problems with this. One was the DVR. It takes the mystery out of the haunting. Or it would if it were actually used as much as it should have been.

    And related to that, I had problems with the father because he summarily dismisses everything even when shown the DVR evidence. He doesn't even react to the door "being blown shut" when he sees it. Sure, you can rationalize that this is how it happened when you're angry at your daughter, but when you see that it clearly SLAMS shut the second she's clear of it, you can't not react. At the very least, if you see that, your eyebrows are going to pop up and you're going to at least have a split-second of doubt, even if you don't "believe".

    And actually, there's a third problem I had, which was that it tried SO damn hard. I liked the long takes of Katie and Micah talking in the first one. It felt much more real and less edited together than this one did. I mean, obviously this had to be edited together from the 7 cameras, but when a conversation has constant jumpcuts, you kill the natural flow of the conversation and it makes it harder to get into the scene. Clearly they've taken the conceit that Paramount has acquired the footage from all seven cameras and edited a "documentary" together, so why not edit it professionally instead of haphazardly like it has been?

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  8. I was not a fan of part one, but I really liked part 2. You made an excellent point about Katie not referencing what her sister just went through in part one. I didn't think about that while watching the movie. I did think a few things Katie and Micah said didn't fit with the first movie. Overall, I do think this is a movie to see if you like your horror movies to scare you.

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  9. PA 2 was kinda like watching old people fuck! Dreadfully boring but not nearly as creepy!

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  10. I really enjoyed this one, as much as the first. Mostly because it added some layers to the first movie's story, while also setting up a terrific idea for a third movie.

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  11. Thought your comment about Obi Wan in action scenes was weird...I mean, when you watch and Arnold movie or Die Hard or Jackie Chan, are you actually scared that they're going to be killed?

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  12. Yes.

    LOL, not killed, but anything major? Yes. Obi-Wan lived to be a very old man with no major injuries. Thus, any scene in say, Attack of the Clones with him menaced by giant spiders or whatever in that battle scene - zzzz. But Mace Windu? He's not around - it's very likely he is dead. So any scene with him in danger was vastly more exciting.

    And here it's even MORE of an issue, because they establish that Katie and Kristy are very close, so obviously anything major that happens to Kristy's family, Katie would have known about it and mentioned it (in PA1).

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  13. I like that it's part prequel and also sequel. Definitely sets up for a third one as well, which I'm okay with because these are sequels that actually continue story.

    PA 2 created more depth to the first film as well. Added layers are a good thing.

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  14. I liked the first one more, but I did enjoy PA2. Granted, I watched the first one alone in my living room late at night with all of the lights turned off for the first time, so that might have added a bit to the scare factor.

    My biggest problem with this one was how Katie acted like she didn't believe that anything was actually going on when Kristy was telling her. In the first one she was telling Micah how this thing has been following her around for her whole life. If the demon was really after the first born male and was following Katie around since she was a kid, then A-Katie would definitely have remembered it and not thought Kristy was exaggerating and B-It stands to reason that if the demon had been following Katie, it would have also been following Kristy seeing as how it just wanted one of them to pop out a little boy for it.

    I don't know, I think that one thing sort of ruined a bit of the story of this movie for me. Though I still liked it... and even as a girl, I definitely noticed Katie in that pool scene. Yowza.

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  15. Just saw this today and I completely agree with your review. Still liked it, however, I thought they kicked the demon over to Katie's house pretty easily and Kristy got back to normal like nothing happened. Also, when Dad finally became a believer, instead of calling a priest or some paranormal expert (like in the first flick), he calls the nanny back that
    he fired. Pretty creepy at the end though when the possessed Katie is carrying away Hunter and he is giggling.

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  16. i have just saw the first movie last week, my country is in a big dilay in everything that In terms to new movies. it's was great film. i can't wait to see the new one. thanks!

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  17. I liked this one much more than PA 1. sure, it had tons of issues, the same nes pa 1 had too. but the characters were loads more interesting, the pay of is much better and scarier, and the story is more intersting. yeah,. it's overall just okayl ike part 1 due to being so damn boring. but pa 1 was MORE boring, so 2 is betterr

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