Friday, October 29, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Fear 1/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 1/5

The first Paranormal Activity relied on tension and a slow burn approach in effectively administering its scares. Coupled with the fact that it also kept you second guessing as to what it was, the film was unlike anything anyone had ever experienced (not too mention a phenomenon was created in the process). And when all was said and done, it was one of the most original and well done horror films I'd seen in quite some time. So, as is most oftentimes the case when a film breaks through to the mainstream, Hollywood was quick to get a sequel fired up. And for most, including myself, visions of Blair Witch 2 danced in our heads. So does the film deliver? A big fat resounding 'NO' from this reviewer. Note: massive spoilers abound. You've been warned.

The film is a prequel of sorts, focusing on the family of Katie. More specifically, her sister, brother in-law, step niece, and newborn baby nephew. Along with a Spanish housekeeper and the family dog, they come home one day to find that their house is broken into, furniture and belongings strewn about but no valuables are taken. Instead of calling authorities, they hire a security company to install cameras so hopefully they can catch them next time in the act. Along with the teenage step niece and father working the newly purchased family handicam, they set out to catch these non-stealing, house messer uppers.

So of course, strange things start happening: the pool vacuum is found every morning, inexplicably finding its way out of the pool; pots falling off ceiling hangers, doors closing by themselves, yadda yadda. And we also see that whatever is in the house has a fixation on the new born baby boy (who by this time has jumped from one scene in being brought home as a baby to now a toddler, a serious lapse in time that is never really explained but we accept at face value).

The teenage daughter being freaked out, starts researching ghosts and concludes that it's a demon and that her family must have made some sort of deal with it. This is supposed to build some sort of mythos but it comes off as just plain silly and escaping all sense of logic. Why would you deduce that after only witnessing a couple of odd things happening and reading an interwebs page?

Anywhos, so we now know that this demon is after the baby (why not just take the baby? why all the pranks and shenanigans?) and somehow it's tied to the history of the family. Our onscreen drama unfolds and is wratched up nightly much like the first with the scares employed being exactly the same. OK, minus one in broad daylight that made me jump. But still, same schtick, different film.

As the film draws to a close, we are supposed to be shocked by the ending but we're not, as its pretty much the same ending to the first film. Coupled with the fact that we have this convoluted mythos which is built and the exact same scares employed but with different characters (admittedly, more likeable), what you have is a repeat of the original and overall, a big ol' stinky crap salad.

I love the found footage sub-genre and I'm a sucker for these types of films. But PA2 ditches what made the first so successful (slow burn, genuine tension) and plugs in the same set of scares that worked the first go around but you see coming a mile away now as we know the formula. Really, there is no deviation.

Ah, and I see part 3 is already in the works. Here's to hoping that more inventive scares are coming and a less prank wanky demon.

Cortez the Killer

P.S. For some reason, no embeddable trailers exist on YouTube. So if you haven't seen the trailer yet, you'll have to do your own interwebs digging. Maybe you can go to WebMDoIHaveADemonFollowingMe?.com while you're looking. You know, just in case you've ever wondered and want to self-diagnose.


Theron said...

Based on the trailer, it feels like the filmmakers have given us a movie full of "gotcha" moments, without doing the work to earn them. That's why the first flick worked — it laid the emotional groundwork and built to the scares. I remain doubtful...

The Film Connoisseur said...

I'll be seeing this one over the weekend, some reviewers actually say this one has surpassed the original, while others like yourself say its more of the same. I guess I'll have to see for myself, as I love movies about Demons. Lets see what happens...but if its anything like you say, sounds like HOllywood is up to their old tricks again. Repeating a successful formula all the way till its done to death.

Pax Romano said...

Well said.

The day light scene was fantastic, a great unexpected shock. Oh and the floating baby scene worked (for me at least), but other than that...oh well.

Matt-suzaka said...

Well, I wish you could have liked it like I did, C-money. I think it is better in many ways than the original, and I thought the building of a mythos and how it worked as a prequel was pretty nice. I also like the use of other things to show threat, like the dog and the baby and how they would react to things.

I do think that there was too much shown in the ads, and I also believe the first film has a better pace as far as the scares go. But the pace of PA2 as a film is far superior in my opinion.

I think it's hard to scare people the same way a second time around because we do know what we are getting to as opposed to the first film, which is something that does hurt the movie on a fright level. But I still really dug it, and now I feel bad that I told you it was great and got you all pumped for it!

Jeff Allard said...

Aw man, sorry you didn't dig this, Cortez - I feel like I gave you a bum tip! Great review, though!

kate said...

The first Paranormal Activity was pure genius. This one; not so much. It was obviously made in a rush to capitalize on the success of the original. The storyline was convoluted while trying to tie PA1 & 2 together. It was a disappointment because you can see the potential early in the movie to have been really great. You knew there would be a connection between the two movies, but instead of their plot lines flowing and making sense (like the Saw movies), the 'connection' was a mishmash of stereotypical horror/paranormal genre revelations.

Cortez The Killer said...

@Theron, that's EXACTLY what it is. Same scares but no work or buildup with the regards to the execution.

@TFC, really looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

@Pax, that was definitely the most effective scene in the film. The baby scene, again, why not just TAKE the baby? It just looked silly.

@Matt, thanks for sharing your well thought out opinion. I wish I shared the same as I really wanted to like it. I just felt the pacing was more rushed this time around and there really was no deviation from a formula which is now all too apparent. And I agree, it was harder to scare the second time around but I really think there could have been more tricks in the bag. Like how cool would it have been for the demon to have inhabited her after they came home from the hospital? The husband could have been lead to believe it was post partum depression or something. Now THAT would have made for a far more terrifying film.

@Jeff, not at all good sir. I was going to see this regardless. I always like hearing your opinions though and more oftentimes than not, we are on the same page regarding a particular film. This one, however, did nothing for me.

@Kate, I totally agree. Great points. And what about the SERIOUS continuity error which I left out? The fact that Katie and Micah make NO mention of their sister/sister in-law and their family ever having any sort of supernatural problems in the first film? Whoops.

Brent B. said...

The continuity thing is an issue, I chalked it up to the whole "just don't talk about it" thing but Micha and Katie certainly do talk about it in the first film. So it's an issue for sure. They could have avoided this by introducing Katie and Micah and had the "new family" decide not to talk to them about the goings on...then we'd still have the family thing going but without putting a major continuity flaw into the works.

But on the whole I think this works much like a haunted house. It's not art or anything, but it does a good job of constantly making you scan the screen and you know that something is going to happen so you're tense expecting it.

The characters are much better and more likable than the first movie. As entertainment I really enjoyed it. As a "great movie" not so much.

Geof said...

I am on the Hate side of this great divide. My wife loved it and was freaked out, where I just kinda rolled my eyes and laughed the whole time. And I really thought i was going to like this film. This sequel felt forced and had severe continuity issues. Glad you pointed them out as I kept my review spoiler-free. The anti-climatic sequence in the basement? The deal breaker. Thank goodness for Katie's presence in the flick...prior to the ending.

Wednesday's Child said...

So many hilarious parts of this review. Thanks for your brutal honesty; now I know I'm doing the right thing by saving my money and avoiding this one.

Carl Manes said...

Im still planning on seeing this in theaters, but only with the hope that I will get a few cheap jump scares and then hopefully sneak into something worth watching