I was so looking forward to this, maybe too much and even though it’s a fine example of ghostly horror, I can’t help but feel ever so slightly let down by this. That’s not to say this is a bad film by any means, in fact it is a very good film, but it had so much to live up to I feel it didn’t have any new and fresh ideas to pull it off. The film is set slightly before the events of the brilliant original, and here we join Katie’s (the original’s couple Katie and Micah) sister Ali and husband Daniel as strange goings on start to happen in their pretty impressive big house. Having been victims of a burglary, Daniel has set up surveillance cameras all over the house to protect his family. His family being his wife, teenage daughter, dog and baby…
The set up here is spot on, and all the camera work is either handheld, or surveillance. This film is on a much bigger scale to the original, with many more cameras capturing the events that unfold. Again, the characters are incredibly real, believable and most of all likeable. Katie visits the house a number of times, and considering what followed with her and Micah, it’s actually quite moving to see her there, knowing what happens to her. The dog is the first to sense something is not right, and many night shots show the dog staring at some unknown force in the baby’s room. The baby also wakes up often and stares at the walls of its bedroom. Chilling scenes indeed and scenes that get you on edge almost instantly. The dog sleeps in the baby’s room, and I will admit to feeling incredibly freaked out by the two of them watching something that I could not see. Things start to get steadily worse…
Ali is next to notice things happening. It all starts almost comically as the machine used to keep the pool water clean keeps ending up outside the pool in the morning. Bringing this to Daniel’s attention, he has an answer for everything, and has absolutely no interest in talk of ghosts. Daniel may irritate some, but I found him to be the perfect balance, a great character and a strong person. He will not believe in other worldly forces, and you cannot change his mind. A superb character who plays out much like Micah’s character. Unfortunately for Daniel though, his teenage daughter finds the possibility of ghosts fascinating and wants to explore more. Her excitement soon turns to pure terror as she is locked out of the house while babysitting. In a freakish scene, and for me the highlight of not only this film, but also the original, we see the daughter fall asleep on the couch and in the surveillance camera, we can just make out a shadow hovering over her and the sound effects create a maximum impact of quite literally shit your pants!
Being scary works wonders here, but it is also, sadly, the films major flaw. The original worked so well because this whole experience of watching the screen and looking for something to move, something to happen, something to scare you was all relatively new and fresh. Here, those ideas smother every other scene and it becomes a little bit tedious. Yes, some scares work fantastically, while others are so incredibly expected, any tension of fear is lost in the want to see it. Like I said, more often than not this approach to horror works really well, but the tension feels much more watered down here. You know what’s about to happen, and the shocks factor is not so much scary but more realistically expected. I don’t believe this franchise is a one trick pony, and with the quite brilliant looking Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night just around the corner, I truly believe this franchise aint finished yet. Where these films really work is the character development and essentially the realism and sense of unease. There are more people involved here, and believe it or not, it’s the dog and baby that really get the heart rate going.
Paranormal Activity 2 does work, and it works brilliantly on so many levels, but it will forever be in the shadow of a true original, a truly great moment in horror that does not come around often enough. Thinking back over this prequel, there are plenty of scenes that will scare you, and I doubt I could watch this with the lights off, so for that it should be applauded. It’s a great set up, believable and with characters you will care about. It delivers very clever, if expected scares and I guarantee it will have you on the edge of your seat quite literally shitting yourself. If anything really, truly let this film down for me, I would have to say it was the ending, where it takes things a little too far. The story though, is a belter. The reveal of why these events happened is very soon made obvious, but it makes for some great, chilling storytelling, but to go into that would seriously spoil things. You’ll just have to trust me on the basis that if you enjoyed the first, for all its mistakes, you will be hard pushed to find a scarier film this year.
[pt-filmtitle]Paranormal Activity 2[/pt-filmtitle]