THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT………..AGAIN!!!!
So, my most anticipated movie of the year has finally clapped my horror eyes, do I feel thrilled?, scared?, over the moon?, or deeply flat?. When the end caption came up, did the feeling of Blair Witch 2 hit me all over again?, or did they manage to do the impossible and make a sequel that was equal to the original that blew me away!
This time last year I sat down to watch Paranormal Activity trying to ignore the hype that was surrounding it. The famous story of how a certain Jaws director was deeply scared after watching for the first time had me thrilled and stunned that a man who made me afraid to go anywhere near any beach when I was a child, could be frightened over a film in which the camcorder concept had been done. The Blair Witch Project set a milestone that for me, I thought would never be matched or even better. It also divided many horror fans, those who thought it was a fresh and simple but scary concept, to those who complained that not much happened and it was all a bore! For me my initial reaction was that it was overhyped, but when I left the cinema and was then all alone in the darkness of my bedroom, it was then that my imagination begin to go wild, and I could not help but stare at the four corners of the room, worried that I would see Mike standing there with his back turned from me. One of the biggest regrets in a film franchise is the sorry excuse of the sequel, that followed a year later. Totally ignoring the whole concept that made it such a success, Book Of Shadows Blair Witch 2 was a sorry excuse of a cash in, that played on all the typical horror cliches and even used an animal scare that was even worse than the budgie exploding in Elm Street 2. The fact there was not even a mention of this shadow book was a clear case that not much thought went into the whole production and just has the Blair franchise came from nowhere, it quickly crawled back into the darkness of the woods.
The similarity of Paranormal Activity to the Blair Witch is uncanny. Both use the “lost footage” concept, the “handheld camera trick”, had a simple idea, and were also friggin scary. They also had the internet to thank for their huge success because while Blair used the internet to hype its movie and forever change the way movies would be advertised, Activity success was the massive word of mouth that spread around horror forums. Many, like me included, had already seen the film before it hit the cinema, with a copy circling the net for many months, because writer and director Oren Peli it could not find a distributor. When Steven Speilberg clapped eyes on the film, the story goes that he was so scared, he knocked it off halfway and would only watch it when the sun rose. Even then, still shaken, after finishing the film he went to leave his office and found that his door was locked for no apparent reason. With his imagination going over drive and being totally freaked out, he realised the power that this film had and quickly helped it to be released. The only difference made to the film to the one already floating around the Net, was the final shot which Speliberg came up with himself. Having seen all three endings, I am only one of a few who disagree with the new ending, because it loses the believable factor that this could happen in your bedroom. I much prefer the very first bleak ending that many had not seen until it was added has an extra on the DVD release. The *Spoiler- throat slit on camera-Spoiler* made me feel really uncomfortable, and instantly made Paranormal Activity shoot into my top horrors of all time, but when the film became a massive blockbuster at the box office and news of a sequel was being rushed into the studio, my first thoughts was Book Of Shadows all over again, and I was a bit pessimistic over it working the second time around.
Paranormal Activity 2 comes across like an horror version of Back To The Future Part 2, in which the concept of the sequel at times runs alongside the events of the original, its a sort of prequel/sequel mixture that could have easily have ruined the entire franchise, it sails close to the wind, but just about gets away with it because you have to admire the time and thought that went into writing this follow up. I myself had to wait a few days to write this review because on first watch I actually thought that it bettered the original, I liked the clever concept, the fact it managed to bring back the two characters of Katie and Micah (again played by Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat), it also rose the plot line to something bigger and not just the random haunting that many fans thought the original was all about. But like all good sequels, because that is what Paranormal Activity 2 is, a damn good sequel, it made me want to watch the original again. Before I did though, I decided to sleep on it and when I woke up I realised that I was wrong. The negative thoughts I had before I sat down to watch the sequel and then taken aback by being good, swayed my rational thought, because by waking up and having a good night sleep was a clear sign that no matter how much I enjoyed part two, I did not sleep at all after watching the original.
Activity 2 is a typical sequel. Its main aim is to be bigger than what made the concept such a success. Instead of the one camera, we have a house full, instead of just a character base of two people, we have a house full, and to make things even more complicated they chuck in a baby and a dog, two things guaranteed for cheap scares, to those who jump at such things like the explosion in Iron Man! (believe me there are people who were actually frightened of that moment). It may be a bit unfair to use the words cheap scares to a film that has some wonderful jump out of your seat moments, but the writers knew what they were doing when they added a family pet and a camera that is firmly fixed on a cot.
This time the action swings to the Reys’ family, which consists of Husband Dan (Brian Boland), Wife Kirsti (Sprague Grayden) daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) and little baby Hunter whose nursery plays an important role in the entire running time.
Its very hard to write a long review because Activity 2 is one those films that you need to know very little to enjoy the scares. The general plot and one you have to be thankful for is that this is not a rehash of the original. They could have easily have gone down the route of different bedroom, different couple, same outcome, but they have tried to step away from it and somehow expand the universe of a story that started or should that be ended in the bedroom of Katie and Micah. We start with some home footage of this normal family going about their business while holding a camcorder, a notion that passed me has stupid to start with simply because who actually films every single second of the day. Nothing much happens and there is no sense of dread, until the family comes home and find their house a train wreck, furniture all over the place, clothes tipped out of wardrobes but strangely nothing taken. This is where the difference from the original steps in because Dan decides to install a camera in every room in the house and on the walls outside in case these vandals come back, and it also quite handy way to expand the concept for the viewers. By doing this though the film instantly loses the claustrophobic feel that was generated when Micah planted that camera in the bedroom. What made Activity 1 work is because that camera stayed in one exact spot while everything around it was happening, us the viewer were like the third eye to all the events especially when lights would flicker, doors would swing, while this young couple slept. By flickering through every room of the house, Activity 2 loses the edge and you can become quite lost studying every single frame in hope you see something.
After the cameras are fitted comes the first big shock and its not of the ghostly kind! A knock on the door, Kristi says it must be her sister, door opens and insteps……..Kate! Its at that moment you realise that something is happening here that is quite bold! The clue though is right at the beginning when you see the date of when all this takes place, I warn you though try not to be clever like I was in trying to think when this event took place compared to the events of the original, because its all a waste of time because if you do what I did and have a massive discussion on the lines of “I am sure the first one took place in April or something!” then it all becomes pointless because in the space of five minutes Micah walks in followed by a caption that reads “60 days before Micah’s death!”. Now if you reading this and thinking “damn you for spoiling the end of Activity 1,” then if you have not watched it yet…why the heck are you reading a review for part 2?…….
So Katie and Kristi are sisters, a family issue in which Katie herself mentions very briefly in her bedroom in the original. Full credit to the writers here who saw that tiny of plot thread and came out with everything that happens in here. Lets not forget, if you have seen the two different endings of Paranormal, before the mighty Speilberg changed the end, then you know that there was never any plan to make a sequel involving the characters of Katie and family. The two original endings were so bleak and dare I say better than the one many so, that it virtually finished off the story there and then. For that logic that there was no original plot to expand the story, I have to give writer Michael R. Perry a huge thumbs up for coming up with something so gritty in such a short time, even though there are one or two plot loops that threaten to derail the whole thing.
The reason you don’t care or even notice is because you simply having so much fun. The main aim of a horror film is to make the audience scream out in fear and jump from their seat and because this film manages to do this on numerous occasions then its hard to criticise. I would rather be holding on to the seat of the chair in fear (and beleive you me there is one daylight scene that is simply breathtaking), than worry over the fact that how Katie never seems to mention these events in the sisters house when all the shit is kicking off in hers.
There are more moments in this film that annoyed me than Katie’s lack of memory. The way of “what is happening and why?” is sort of explained is very dumb and makes you wonder who in the right mind would think of those reasons in these circumstance. Its a sort of lets goggle it moment that only serves to link the two films, and the constant screen shots especially in the beginning will test the nerves. I began to get quite fed up with the outside the front door, to the pool, to the kitchen images that replayed a lot especailly when nothing much happens.
But those are minor grumbles. I have to mention the quite ingenious decision to remove the mental thought that made the viewer feel safe. In the original you knew when it was time to call the Ghostbusters when Katie and Micah finally fell asleep and the clocked reached the 2AM mark. Here it does not matter, scares happen in broad daylight and that is the beauty of the follow up, you do not know actually when you be jumping out of the seat! Its quite unnerving when you show scares in the light of the sun, it feels out of place and somewhat different because horror in general is placed when the moon rises. Activity 2 shows that terror can strike anywhere and for that it deserves all the high praise.
Its more brutal than the first! The being dragged out of the bed moment that summed up everything good of the first is expanded here and is more horrific, but then like I wrote earlier, when you add a pet and a baby to the mix, two of humans most natural want to protect life forms, then you may find the danger on film here more uncomfortable, especially when this unknown force starts to play with these innocent beings.
The truth though at the moment there are in discussions for third film to be released next year. I for one feel the story that was needed to be told has been told. Once the great twist in this film is revealed and the film mingles with scenes of the original then I felt it was then the story should have ended. The final ten minutes of this movie moves away from realism and only serves to delight the horror fans who want more than simplicity. If they decide to go ahead and carry on with what happens at the end of this film, then while the second came so close by playing with the concept and destroy it…..a third film maybe too much and it be a shame to spoil all the good work that we have seen here.
Maybe its time for a new family to be be scared with all things that go bump in the night
OVERALL: As good as you wished it to be. Activity 2 builds on the good work of the original and fans will love the scares but those who did not like it much first time around, should avoid this at all costs.