IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 91 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
A year after their son Hunter is born, Dan, Kristi and Ali, Dan’s daughter from a previous marriage, return home to find their house seemingly broken into [though both doors were locked] and trashed, though the only thing stolen is a necklace given to Kristi by her sister Katie. Dan has security cameras installed throughout the house but soon they are pestered at night by doors slamming, banging sounds, the pool cleaner moving by itself and pots falling. When Martine the housekeeper attempts to exorcise the house Dan fires her. Then Katie and Kristi reveal that, as kids, they were tormented by a demon….
Much like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity seems to divide the population between those who found it gripping and terrifying, and those who found it totally unscary and boring. I personally found Paranormal Activity very frightening, but not The Blair Witch Project. Maybe it’s because I can relate to eerie happenings in a house far more then in a wood, maybe it’s because if I want to be scared [and I do find it kind of enjoyable] I can sometimes put myself in that mindset, I don’t know. For me Paranormal Activity was horror in it’s purest form, but considering its huge success it was bound to get a sequel. Sequels can either be one or two things, and both ways they are damned. They either copy the first film and get criticised for being a rehash, a cash-in, lacking originality, etc, or they try and do something different and get criticised for going too far away from the first film and therefore being a proper sequel.
Paranormal Activity 2 does the first option. It’s almost a remake of the first film, and is shot in exactly the same way [as ‘real’ camera footage] whilst employing a lot of the same tricks. There’s slightly less of a slow build up and more time spent on the night time scary scenes, but the majority of those scenes either repeat occurrences in the original or elaborate on them. Therefore there is definitely a slight feeling of déjà vu, and some things are repeated too often, such as doors slamming and loud bangs [though I jumped at least four times!]. Nonetheless director Tod Williams, taking over from Dan Peli who understandably didn’t want much to do with a sequel, is just as good as his predecessor in building up scares and then delivering, and you’d think it was directed by the same person. I found it just as scary in places, and there are a few new chills [such as some stuff involving the young child, with which I won’t go into detail but sent shivers right through me and give the film a slightly darker edge then part one] which are most effective.
This one is set in a much bigger house, which means initially that we lose the first film’s claustrophobia, but this wins out in the end, with great use made of the various settings, be it a swimming pool or a hallway. There are more characters to be frightened, and there’s also more to the climax, and in some ways this is slightly more conventional. Things are explained a bit more, with a vaguely Faust-like background story. I’m not sure how I felt about this, I thought things were scarier with minimal explanation and there are other routes they could have gone down which may have been better, but kudos for attempting to develop something without getting too wrapped up in explaining everything. This makes references to the first film and actually reveals itself to be a prequel rather than a sequel. I felt that things were being set up for a third movie and I reckon that this would make a fine trilogy, though it would be nice if they left a few things unexplained maybe.
With performances that are just as convincing, without being overly ‘actorly’, as those in part one, this is probably better than anyone had a right to expect. Despite the stuff I’ve mentioned, I personally didn’t find it had quite enough things in it to distinguish it from part one and be its own film. Still, if you loved number one, you’ll probably love this, as long as you don’t expect much of a difference. If you hated its predecessor, then you’re unlikely to like this film any more. Personally I think it still worked, and [and this is something I don’t often say], roll on number three! Though please let’s stop there. I should warn you that many of the shots in the trailer, including some scary ones, are not in the actual film. It’s possible that Paranomal Activity 2 was originally planned to be a more ‘obvious’ or’ explicit’ film, as this is what the trailer hinted at, but then they decided to turn it into something more akin to the original.