“Paranormal Activity” was an Indie Horror smash hit with a tiny budget of $ 11,000 as a limited run in Indie theaters and horror conventions. It came even as a huge surprise that it has earned more than $ 60 million domestically with a $ 193 million worldwide box-office take. The film was such a huge success that the studios scrambled to make a follow up. Well, this time the director of the first film Oren Peli returns as producer with Tod Williams as director. There are actually two sequels coming this year for this low-budget Independent horror film; one is a homegrown sequel released Oct. 22 while the other more direct sequel is called “Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Nights” (click here for details) is a Foreign movie made by the Japanese . It is kind of weird for an American film to have spawned a Japanese sequel, but that is something to be discussed another day.
I’ll get right to the point; if you didn’t like the first film and not a fan of the documentary style cinematography, you’ll be better off staying away from this sequel.
“Paranormal Activity 2” is a prequel in most parts and a sequel in some. This second film closely follows the experiences of the family of Katie’s sister Kristie (Sprague Grayden). With her husband Daniel (Brian Boland) who is also a widower, the two would like to settle into a quiet life with their newborn baby; supplemented by Daniel’s daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim). When a strange occurrence happens that disturbs their home, Daniel blames it to vandals and has hidden security cameras installed throughout the house. Ali surveys the scary incidents through the use of her own camcorder and the security cameras as Kristie herself feels that the disturbing incidents may carry ties to her childhood and to her sister Katie (Katie Featherston, from the first film) who frequently visits her family.
While the first film relied heavily on the power of suggestion and its ability to mimic ‘real’ footage to generate a feeling of dread and unknown terror; “Paranormal Activity 2” is a more polished installment of the documentary style cinematography. This can both work against it and for it; for those who were looking for more of a story and answers from its concept, this sequel does tie a lot of things together. The reasons for Katie’s photo, their family history, the demonic entity that stalks this home and Katie‘s, all answers are laid out for the consumption of the “Paranormal” fan. This sequel does feel more like a movie, and for the most part, the ‘power of suggestion’ thing seemed to have been abandoned for a more detailed story.
The direction by Tod Williams is pretty good as he uses what he has and remembers to put in some gaps in the screenplay to emulate the feeling of a documentary. He shifts the shots from camcorder footage and the footage from the security cameras. For horror fans, this sequel may prove to be more attractive than the slow-moving screenplay developed by the original. The film does feel like a haunted house film with some poltergeist effects; it does follow the same steps of infestation and oppression to keep the film close to the framework of the original film. The film has several scenes that made me jump (which is important to a horror film) and a lot of sequences that was very frightening and disturbing. Let’s be honest, a supernatural force targeting a helpless innocent child can just give me goosebumps. Some may argue that some of the scares felt like a rethread of the ones in the original but one has to remember that this is the same entity that attacked Katie in the original film. This time around, the attacks were aggressive and it was strong from the beginning. The first movie had a slow build up that made it feel like an episode of those paranormal shows on TV, this film doesn’t hide the fact that it is a movie and moves rather quickly.
I’ve mentioned that while the first film emulated ‘real’ footage, this one felt more like a movie. The screenplay while fitting to its premise, had devices that felt rather stereotypical of a horror movie. Let’s get one thing straight, supernatural films have a strong tendency to lean towards superstitious beliefs, legends (based on some truth) and haunting experiences that have similarities. The screenplay carries strong references to curses, demonic bargaining and familial secrets. I am saying that while these details make the movie feel more like a movie, the possibilities of such things are found from the books of superstition and myth which may have been derived from real stories.
The performances in the film are somewhat of a mixed bag quite honestly. The cast was good but I thought that there were times like they were really ‘acting’ rather than in front of a camcorder. This does work against the film since for a “mockumentary“, a film has to have performances that appear realistic and not scripted. This is one area where the film loses some credibility in the POV style gimmick but I gave it a benefit of a doubt since the camerawork wasn’t exactly designed to be focused and revealing. The characterization in the film is a little weak, but then again, if they’re real folks as with a doco, what would we know about them? It does follow the usual formula of a skeptic, a superstitious one, a believer and the one who bears the brunt of the attack.
So is this sequel a worthy one? Well, yes and no. It does feel more like a movie that felt like it abandoned the original’s style but it does give fans of the franchise answers and may have a more fleshed out story. It does have some nicely timed scares and a family in danger is just a more compelling device than Katie and Micah in the original. “Paranormal Activity 2” is aimed for fans of the original film and it leaves me curious how the Japanese sequel would fare.
Recommended! [3 ½+ Out of 5 Stars]
Note: Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night Follows a Japanese man who comes home from the U.S. who has been followed by the same entity that attacked Katie.
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