Tuesday, 19 October 2010
FILM REVIEW: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2
By Guest Reviewer A.J. Smith
The original Paranormal Activity was fresh, clever and scary, and was promoted via an ingenious viral campaign. Could a sequel live up to the hype and entertain in a similar fashion? The answer is, thankfully, yes.
Unless, of course, you saw the original and didn’t appreciate the slow burning tension while getting to know and care for the central characters, or found it lacking in gory thrills; this sequel, which follows much the same pattern, is not for you.
We left the first film asking what happened to Katie (Katie Featherston)? Where did she go? The events of the first film are tied into this sequel with such expertise and care that you feel you aren’t watching a rushed job, one eager to cash-in on the runaway success of the first.
Katie’s sister, Kristi, and her family are the victims of ‘bumps in the night’ this time round. They come home to find their house ransacked with no evidence of break-in or robbery which husband Dan responds to by installing an extensive system of security cameras (cleverly but plausibly giving the audience access to the entire home).
Dan is sceptical of both his daughter's (Ali) and housekeeper's (Martine) reports of unexplained noises and the presence of ‘something evil’. Martine is fired for trying to cleanse the house using incense and chants, while Ali is excited and amused at the spooky occurrences. But what secrets from her childhood is Kristi withholding, and what does the demon have in-store for her young son, Hunter? Finding out is a pleasure due to some very well fleshed-out performances from all the cast, including the protective family dog, Abby.
Witnessing the terror from the security camera footage, and Ali documenting with a handy-cam, adds a perverse voyeuristic quality which simultaneously leaves the audience feeling helpless. At the Friday night session I attended, the audience was screaming out for characters to ‘get out’, or ‘look behind you’ much more than a conventional horror film would evoke. The excellent sound design plays a pivotal role in this, delivering highly effective jolts.
Director of the first film, Oren Peli, serves as producer this time round with Tod Williams filling the director’s chair, providing the film with a more structured and polished look. Then again, that’s what a budget increase from $20,000 to $3 million will do for you. Perhaps some of the charm of the low budget first film is lacking, but you sense that Paramount knows it has a profitable franchise on its hands and isn’t about to take too many chances.
I enjoyed the experience, my only gripe: another case of the trailer containing scenes that aren’t in the final cut of the film. And that we are left once again asking ‘what did Katie do next?’