DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Paranormal Activity 2

Friday 18 February 2011

Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity (2010) dir. Tod Williams
Starring: Sprague Grayden Katie Featherston, Brian Boland, Micah Sloat


By Alan Bacchus

This movie is just about as good as it could be. A surprisingly successful and very decent sequel to the now classic found footage indie darling of last year. The filmmakers’ adherence to the techniques and narrative of the first film adds substantial credibility to what could have been seen as a shameless knock-off capitalizing on the original film's brand appeal.

PA2 takes place a couple of months before the original, but in the same city, and with many of the same characters. This time we’re in the house of Kristi Rey, sister to the demonized hero Katie, in the original. Kristi lives with her hubby Daniel, teenaged daughter Ali and super cute toddler, Hunter. After their house appears to have been vandalized, the Reys set up some security cameras around the house.

Of course these cameras, as well as Ali’s camcorder become the ‘found footage’ used to construct this faux documentary. Night by night, mysterious paranormal phenomenon scares the bejebees out of the family. Young impressionable Ali believes wholeheartedly the house is haunted, slowly mom Kristi, becomes a believer, Daniel, despite evidence in the recorded videos remains a sceptic. Katie and Micah from the first movie shows up from time to time to visit, dropping hints her and the family history with hauntings.

For the majority of the film Williams builds the same kind of nail biting tension as Oren Peli did from watching those bland security videos. Even in complete stillness when nothing is happening we find ourselves riveted to those frames. Williams mines fantastic suspense with little sound, or movement, just the anticipation of the worst. Like Peli, when Williams holds on those frames for inordinate amounts of time, as audience members, we finds ourselves scanning the image for movements, in the windows, the doors, the furniture. It’s Peli who deserves all the credit for tapping into this primal reaction of ours to this kind of fear and Williams smartly doesn’t fool with the formula. Healso admirably expands the scope, using several security angles, which results in a more visuals to stimulate us, while staying true to the realism of the set-up.

But as the father of a 16-month old, the aspect of PA2 which got under my skin is the presence of young Hunter, the little boy of similar age to mine who is completely oblivious to the haunting, though often reacts to the unseen paranormal presence. With a child in the picture, the stakes suddenly becomes elevated another notch. While Micah from the first film seemed to get his comeuppance for his egotism and male chauvinism, Hunter, is a pure innocent, who, according to the story’s internal mythology is meant to suffer from the sins of the family’s past.

The action-oriented third act, admittedly is silly and fails the picture, but not enough to dismiss the marvellous spine-tingling lead up and broadening of this now legitimate horror film franchise. Just how much more dramatized 'found footage' will be too much? Tough to say, but by the end of this picture, I wouldn’t mind seeing another.

Paranormal Activity 2 is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment

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