October 23, 2010

Move Review: Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity 2 Poster - Click to View Extra Large ImageWhen the first Paranormal Activity became a surprise hit last year it was inevitable that it would get a sequel. It is a low-budget exercise in atmospheric minimalism that successful does what not many mainstream horror films are able to do these days, genuiniely scare and disturb its audience. I recall walking out of the theater shaken and unsettled, I left knowing that night the creaks and groans of the house would not quite be the same. Considering its success it was inevitable that it would get a sequel, a horrifying that on a few different levels. Still, I certainly was curious to see if it could get anywhere near the success of its predecessor.

Needless to say, if you did not like the first film you are not going to like this one. It will certainly not convert anyone. It suffers from the Blair Witch effect, these movies rely on a faux documentary/first person perspective that purports to present reality. You are either going to buy into it are you aren't. If you choose to buy into it and allow yourself to believe in what is happening and what these people are experiencing, it can be a downright terrifying experience.

Paranormal Activity 2 takes the setup of the first film and expands on it. It is not drastically different, but we do see a new set of tools put to use. In the first film we had a single camera that was used to collect footage. This time around we have a series of security cameras as well as a young girl who likes to document everything on a camcorder. Everything that we see makes sense within the context of the film. The minds behind the compilers of the fake documentary footage know just what we need to see and not see.

The folly that could have been run into is running to the cameras to check out every noise, or at least show that to the audience. Instead we are shown the cameras in regular succession, giving us a little safe familiarity with where they are and what we see with them. They then proceed to deliver scares originating off camera. More often than not beginning with the reactions of the family in the house.

One of the things you will want to be afraid of is entering the theater with foreknowledge of what happens. This movie relies on you not knowing anything. I will not tell anything that will hurt this.

Paranormal Activity 2 ingeniously takes the first movie to another level with more characters, more story, more big scares, more everything. I know this is a common trait for sequels where the thought to make a more successful film is to take what worked earlier and make it bigger and louder. This movie does make it bigger and louder but it does so with a restrained hand. This still feels real.

I cannot claim to be an absolute believer that ghosts and demons exist in this fashion, but I also do not completely discount it. The story aims to make a believer out of the non-believer. This is not something that could be written off as mental illness. The events of the movie make no apology for their belief that such things do exist.

Something else I liked about the film was the writing. They took the seed of the of the original and expanded upon it. They gave the story more characters and more background. It is also tied rather brilliantly to the first movie. Everything just comes together in a frighteningly beautiful way.

Again, it is not going to win over any new fans, but those who like this style of storytelling will likely be really into it. I find it has nothing to say about society or any big picture idea, it is simply these people and what happens to the. This is fine by me, we do not always need any big picture ideas.

Simply put, I loved Paranormal Activity 2. It did all the right things to feel similar yet different to the first film. It got bigger in a thoughtful manner. It did not try to explain everything or deliver any sort of thoughtful commentary. It presented the situation in creepy fashion. Is it a rewatchable film? No, not really. It is not one I can watch that often but every once n awhile I suspect it will be fun to pop on for a watch on a  dark and stormy night.

I jumped, I got tense, I was on the edge of my seat, I was creeped out, I laughed to release the tension, I had a good time. This delivers. Period.

Highly Recommended.

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