Paranormal Activity 2

Hunter and Demons

         
 

20 October 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

You won’t lose any sleep over it but it is worth a jolt or two and that might be enough for a night. Paranormal Activity 2 makes some additions in effort to stand out from the original but it is also a bit of a recycler. It is still entertaining but too eager to scare. The higher budget sequel still employs the grainy home video and scratchy audio, and in addition to the family video camcorder, it has multi-prop surveillance video hovering over the premises. But it also wants to bring the house down with bigger effects – did a cyclone (WTF) come and thrash the house apart? In this brand new household occupied by a married couple with a teen daughter and a toddler son, the unseen poltergeists are back. They are a prototypical American family of chatterboxes except for Hunter, the toddler.

The “found footage” original was, in my book, one of the all-time great horrors, and it kept me up for several nights (ALERT: See that movie first, the second is just those who crave for a residual re-tasting of the first). Occasionally I experienced drowsy night tremors and thought I was seeing shadows moving in the dark. It messed with my head and I was surprised by fears that I hadn’t known were fears to me. The 2009 original also benefitted from having the annoying Micah, who if anything, taunted the supernatural. The effects then were subtle, and all the more disquieting, until in one big swoop (maybe two, three) it sprang stupendous that-didn’t-just-happen and “Hell no!” waves of shocks.

The sequel has too many off in the distance bangs and clangs audio effects. It’s like the filmmakers are aware to not shock the audience too early, but they are also too conceding by giving us too much a taste of the pudding. During the “Night” titles the cameras crosscut between different angles chosen by the force of the director Tod Williams (no involvement with the first film). In “Night 3,” and “4” and “7” and on and on, the editing skips to one next shot after another, and we hear bumps and clanks (sometimes blatant bashes) on the audio.

This haunted family seems to pick up the home camcorder for just about everything, hey, it must be what they do. Some families love home camcorders. Daniel (Brian Boland) is the father, both congenial and disagreeable to the ideas of spirits and metaphysics. Kristi (Sprague Grayden) is the chirpy wife who is full of good humor but professes that spirits are nothing to joke about. Ali (Molly Ephraim) is the teenage daughter who is the first to use playback tape as paranormal evidence. Hunter is the toddler, restricted at night in his crib, who stares at unseen apparitions on the other side of windows and mirrors. The house dog, sleepy one minute but ready to pounce when the unknown encroaches, is the most captivating character besides Hunter.

When the camcorder is not rolling, the action and non-action is captured by surveillance cameras rigged with time codes. Theses high ceiling fixed cameras, peering down with their wide angle lenses, are effective. On the big screen, the audience’s eyes bounce back and forth looking for house objects to move scantly or to spring up in our eyes within the grainy blue nightscape of the visuals. At its tricky best, we wonder if we see something or if we merely see a blur that we thought was something.

The terrifying activity in the basement, when the film finally goes down there, has us engrossed with our eyes wide open and yet the peak result is damn confusing. One moment is terrific: Is that Hunter hanging upside down or is it merely the camera that is upside down?

To not appear like a cash-in byproduct, the sequel finds a neat-o if hambone way to intersect the events of the first film into this one. It’s one whiplash shock to see Micah Sloat and Katie Featherstone make appearances (one of them is relative to Hunter’s family). They are happy, pre-disturbed visitors that just come over to hang out, but they are also there so the studio marketing team can cross its T’s and dot its I’s for future DVD packaging. But you might be here not to hear about graces of storytelling but to know whether or not you will have a body shuddering experience. Well, you might get rattled nerves. But you won’t quite flip out unless you’re a nervous Nellie.

91 Minutes. Rated R.

HORROR / SUPERNATURAL / FRIDAY AFTER DARK MOVIE

Film Cousins: “The Exorcist” (1973); “The Others” (2001); “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001, Mexico); “Paranormal Activity” (2009).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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