Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paranormal Activity 2 (Review)

Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Directed by Tod Williams

I gave the original Paranormal Activity 3 spinkicks on the basis that it reinvented the POV shaky cam found footage horror genre. Not since Blair Witch had a movie techno supersized the typical supernatural film into cult like status.

It brought in surveillance footage blended with shaky cam and a running timer that actually fast forwarded to the good parts. Yes folks, these little things were clever in the original.

But then it got a sequel and it went all down hill.

Paranormal Activity 2 is clearly inferior to its big brother. The quick review is it uses new and old characters, the same techniques, the same story and the same scares to deliver the goods. But oddly this sequel which is actually a prequel then sequel jumped the shark once it was announced it was going to be made.

It's not that it repackages everything, it's that the characters who drove the first film (Micah and Katie) somehow were more cooler than this family (in this case Katie's sister Kristi, her husband Daniel, their daughter Ali and the newborn Hunter). Sure Michah was an asshole but we bought into it. Coupled with the fact Part 2 loses its glamor and originality just by existing, I can only declare this movie a yawn.

Boring Plot-O-Matic

After experiencing what they think are a series of "break-ins", a family sets up security cameras around their home, only to realize that the events unfolding before them are more sinister than they seem.

Awesome Review-O-Matic

Since I've seen PA1, I've watched a handful of found footage flicks. Evil Things (full review here), Rec and 2 flicks that made my Top 10 List of 2010: The Last Exorcism and Rec 2. Rec 2 is clearly the winner in the sequel department has it was all super sized for full effect.

For Paranormal Activity 2, we clearly have a Book of Shadows effect here. How do you top a one of a kind flick like PA? Rec 2 did the impossible and stayed true but so did PA. So we'll go all formula review here.

Let's get to the breakdown by seeing how Paranormal Activity 2 worked the BWP formula to perfection.
  • The camera "person" films everything
  • His friends who become part of the video
  • Something sinister starts to scare them
  • The film ends with "the final shot" that gets the audience shocked

The camera "person" films everything

Sometimes the logic of why everybody films everything is illogical. In PA2, it's gratuitously overused. It works in PA1 because Micah wants to document the weird paranormal shit. But a newborn doesn't warrant this much filming. Dad, mom and daughter take turns filming everything in this hell week before the events of PA1. I thought they'd get the damn nanny to start filming them as well.

Hell, why not put cameras on tripods and have 2-3 takes?

Sure the multiple surveillance cameras are a nice touch but they totally fucked up the one thing that made Paranormal Activity had going with it. THE RUNNING TIMER!!!

The running timer (which fast forwards during the night and somehow gets us to the good part) does not come in until 1 HOUR INTO THE MOVIE?!?!? The beauty of the timer was it built up serious oodles of suspense. You knew when it stopped, some fucked up shit was gonna happen. Here it's not used at all and your left with boring attempts at humor, some Katie and Micah cameos and some family bickering. Sigh and yawn.

His friends who become part of the video

Not much to say here. Like I said Micah and Katie make a cameo which enable us the viewer to start seeing a prequel unfold. Good to see our yuppie San Diego couple in pseudo extra footage.

Our Misifits loving daughter Ali soon becomes a YouTube cam girl as we go on. She starts Fox Muldering herself and night camming her way all over the creepy house. Seriously, this house is fuckin huge. 4 bedrooms, big ass TV, large ass pool. What does dad do? Run a mega corporation or run drugs from Mexico?

Something sinister starts to scare them

The eerie comes in all forms and follows the same formula. We get low rated scares to progressively yowser scares. So what do we get to see? Baby toys move, dogs barking, pots and pans trying to escape a hanging, flame wars, mysterious shadows, doors closing babies running amok, cabinets wanna party, dogs battling demons and dragged out house stunts.

I actually predicted a few of these scares. That's how boring it got.

I know you lose the luster in a sequel which is why you CAN'T do more of the same. You have to add something completely different than will outright shock and awe the shit out of the viewer. Rec 2 totally did this. PA2 which seemed especially Hollywood-ized feeds you the same generic pizza you've had before. Sonnavabitch.

The film ends with "the final shot" that gets the audience shocked

There be a bit of a mythos slightly explained and a bit of a twist as our prequel goes into sequel mode. It's clear that Tod Williams seemed to have watched Rec a few times and we get full frontal night vision when our big sis gets all demonized. The only difference is we have a toddler clogging up camera time.

Yeah we get a few more WTF but their mild WTFs. I mean if you wanted to give yourself a PA marathon, the best case scenario is to watch PA2 then stop it when we see Katie pull up in the driveway and meets Micah. Then pop in Part 1 and when that's over resume Part 2 again. They clearly blended this all together. They should just make one mega Paranormal Activity that intercuts both movies (ahem ahem I'm talking to you INTERNET!)

The big final shot was clearly anti climactic. If we were to look back at the original ending of Paranormal Activity this other ending wouldn't really exist but remember folks, Spielberg always wins in the end.

I was a little worried we'd see little Hunter get a vicious pair of teeth and start babbling violently into the camera. Don't worry, that doesn't happen...well not until we get Paranormal Activity 3.

What more can I say? I didn't like PA2 as much as the first one. Yes it was the characters, the recycled scares and the lack of cliches (eg. running timer) they used in the first one. And then again with the Ouija board? C'mon now. Hell they could have killed the daughter's boyfriend.

It's a sequel that had problems from the get go and it doesn't really go.

If you've never seen any of these flicks, go with the original. Why? The jokes were a bit better.


Negative Zero

WTF moment

The sequel in the sequel which is a prequel then a sequel

The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis

You'd think I'd have seen this just in case it was good enough to be on my Top 10 list. Hell it doesn't even make my Top 20.

Paranormal Activity 2 is out on Blu-Ray, VOD and DVD.


Check out the trailer.

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  1. Nice review. Pretty much sums up my feelings about it. You left out one thing though. WTF was up with the pool cleaner? Really, that's what's supposed to pass as scary? The pool cleaner ending up out of the pool every morning? I actually started laughing, imaging this Demon spending time every night standing by the side of the pool, pulling it up and setting it there.

    The filmmmakers kept showing the pool, establishing that something is going to happen there... I thought for sure somebody would drown by an unseen force, but nothing of consequence ever happens. Bad filmmmaking!

  2. Ross - Dude, you're totally right. That was some lame potential scares. Plus they bring back the Oujia board and nothing happens!

  3. The thing that bothered me the most was the daughter doing the Fox Muldering. She does some internet research and instantly deduces that there's a *SPOILER ALERT* demon who's after them because of some pact the family made years ago? So goddamn lame. I laughed out loud after that bold proclamation.

  4. I thought this was a pretty decent flick. But maybe because I had almost zero expectations. The inclusion of a child borders on sensationalism and is indicative of how tired the idea had become even after just one film that such a vulnerable character had to be introduced to make the audience care.

    The "climax" was done too hastily also. Having said this, as I said, it is not a bad film at all. Some scenes are suspenseful and scary. It's just a little lame one.

    Also I don't see how anyone who's seen the original would expect random deaths, gore and monsters (Hunter gets teeth? Come on!)

  5. Before making the film, they spent countless thousands of dollars in pre-screenings trying to find out what terrified people most. Pool cleaners came out on top, not demonically-terrorized babies, which clearly got overlooked in the final cut.

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