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Friday, October 22, 2010

Paranormal Activity: 2 Fast 2 Poltergeist

Paranormal Activity 2 = 3 ½ out of 5 Stars
Dan: Someone came in and trashed the house. Kristi thought it was a ghost...
As a quick message for those trying to go in as fresh as they can:  This film works for what it is.  If you enjoyed the first film, then you will most likely enjoy this film.  It may not be perfect, but it achieves something that most horror movies, these days, don’t – it scared me.  Similar to the first film, this film plays with a simple idea and covers much of the same ground that the first film did.  However, with a change in location, use of multiple cameras, and a higher budget, this film manages to build upon what the first achieved as well as tie in nicely to the story that took place in the first.  I may not have thought this film was at all necessary to make, but I am glad that it makes for a nice companion with the first.


I hate being obvious about how I am structuring this, but some are more spoiler-concerned with this type of film, so this paragraph is going to go over some plot details, but don’t worry, I never spoil things beyond basic elements.  The big thing to know is that this film is actually set before the time of the first.  Dan and Kristi have just had a baby boy, Hunter.  The couple lives in a house in Carlsbad, California, along with their teenaged daughter, Ali, and their dog, Abby.  Kristi also happens to be the sister of Katie (Katie Featherstone), from the first film.  After all the rooms in the house are disturbed, while everyone is away, Dan installs security cameras in several rooms of the house, which record all day.  Over the course of the film, we once again watch and listen as things appear to be going bump in the night.  Whatever seems to be doing this also appears to have an affinity for baby Hunter.

Now, as some may have gathered, I am a fan of the first film.  A friend and I managed to catch it at one of the midnight shows, before the hype got out of control.  We did our very best to avoid any trailers regarding this film, then saw it, and liked it.  I especially liked it more following my troubles of trying to go to sleep that night.  With that being said, this sequel had the task of both recreating what worked about the first film, while still having something that kept it fresh and separate.  This could have proved to be a hard task, because at this point, everyone knows what they are expecting to see and any semblance to a documentary is much shakier because we all know that this is a sequel made based on the popularity of the first film.  Fortunately, the cast and crew involved accepted the challenge of making this film and managed to pull off a fairly clever sequel.

There are two main elements that I was especially pleased with.  First off, this film did manage to scare me.  I am not referring to when things suddenly jump out at you, because when things suddenly jump out at you, you naturally react.  I am referring to the way that this film builds its suspense.  It once again starts out slow, and continues to build up the freaky occurrences over the course of the film.  I find these films especially effective in theaters, because the very low humming of the bass, during the nighttime sequences, makes you very aware that something ominous is going to occur.  Add to all this a baby and a dog, and one can easily become more anxious.  By the time all hell does start breaking lose, yes, I am on my toes, but the nervous build up and stress-inducing subtle scares are what keep me satisfied with this film as a good horror flick.

The other element that I was satisfied with was the story.  It would have been very easy for screenwriter Michael R. Perry to have simply written a story involving a completely new set of people and have it tie in a very tedious sort of way; however, the way this film works to blend itself into the plot of the first is not only effective for this film, but also enhances to first.  Nothing is very complex about how things are approached, but I appreciated the work that was done.

As far as the rest of the film goes, I think director Tod Williams did a solid job of making things work.  I am very glad that the change was made to have multiple security cameras along with a handheld camera, as it leads to some creative editing.  The scares in this film are handled well, and function better, once again, due to the use of a real location.  Despite how obnoxious some audience members wanted to be during the screening, everyone did seem to be going along for the ride when the time came to focus on the surreal elements occurring.  The bigger budget of course lends itself to some more creative sequences, and I was happy to see a few neat tricks at play.


For the most part, the actors are fine at reacting to their situations.  People will once again question the decisions made by some in certain scenes, and I didn’t exactly by the Dan-Kristi chemistry, but they certainly do a good job of “non-acting” for the purposes of this film.  Not much else I can knock about this film, for what it is, although the time and day stamps are kind of useless given that no one is buying the film as a documentary and the ending is kind of abrupt.

This ended up being much more of a comprehensive review than I thought it would be, certainly more than the first.  I guess this is due to the fact that this sequel does not have that refreshing sense of mystery that seemed to be built into the first, therefore I can analyze it a bit further, without denying its potential viewers the unique experience of going in fresh.  This film is a much wider release and essentially recreates what the first film did, albeit in a way that manages to be creative enough to distinguish it.  Still, it delivers what fans of the first should want, by being familiar but new.
Kristi: Get out of my house!

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