I was able score myself a free pass on Wednesday to an advance screening of last night’s of “Paranormal Activity 2”, courtesy of Paramount StudiosDemand It! promotion which has been running with every trailer of the movie. Luckily, Dallas was one 20 cities that won a free advanced screening of the film. So, after standing in line with a packed crowd of equally eager fans for more than 3 hours waiting for the midnight viewing of the film, I feel I have somewhat earned the right to share with you my opinion on one of the most anticipated horror films of the year and probably even this decade.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the “Paranormal Activity” phenomenon let me catch you up. PA which was released in 2009, began as a is a little film that was reportedly made for $15,000 over the course of a seven-day shoot by writer/director/producer/editor Oren Peli, and stared newbie actors, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat and the couple’s camcorder . The actors, who used their real first and last names in the film, reportedly answered the casting call for this film on Craigslist which I find hilarious for some strange reason.
The plot of the first movie revolved around said couple in their San Diego track home that they (or at least Katie) think is being haunted. To assuage Katie, Micah sets up a video camera in the hopes of catching any ghostly shenanigans. Unfortunately for Micah, who initially does not believe Katie’s concerns, their worse fears turn out to be true. You see, it seems Katie has been haunted since childhood by what appears to be a demon and now it obviously wants to meet her boyfriend Micah too! I won’t share too much more about the plot for fear of ruining it for those of you who want to maybe watch the first film in preparation for this one.
For weeks now, Paramount has been teasing and scaring fans with a series of short trailers promoting “PA 2”. The trailers seemed to focus on a house, a family (including baby, and dog) and what appears to be the possessed figure of Katie from the first film haunting the family.
Now I promise I won’t give away any spoilers. Besides, I am sure that the good folks at Paramount probably have people scouring the web this morning for spoiler content since the movie does not officially open until Friday.
This is what I can share…
“PA 2” opens in Carlsbad, Ca. where we are introduced to what turns out to be Katie’s younger sister Kristy, and her family bringing home their new baby (Hunter) from the hospital. The teenaged daughter of the couple is filming Hunter’s arrival and taking testimonials from the family. This is the plot device that director, Todd Williams uses to set up the camcorder aspect that was used so effectively in the first film. After what appears to be a break-in early on in the film, the family contacts a security company who sets up cameras over the entire house. I applaud Williams for using the security cameras as a way to take it up a notch in terms of quality of the camera work, using this strategy avoids much of the shifty camera work done by Micah in the first film.
Needles to say, pretty soon the same types of demonic shenanigans began to happen at Kristy’s house as well with the video cameras catching most of the activity.
That’s the setup, and it would be hard to go much deeper without dropping some major SPOILERS.
I did like “PA 2”, it delivered the same kind of less-is-more tension building scares as the first film; though just as most fans of the first feared, and it didn’t feel as fresh and original as the first. Williams, in my opinion, depended too heavily on many of the same plot devices used in the first film. The sudden and loud noises in the night, doors opening and closing by themselves and objects moving on their own were very effective in the first film and lent to many of the films scares and overall creepiness; this time however, they just felt a little contrived.
Also the date and time stamps on the stationary cameras for the overnight scenes that were used very effectively by Peli in “PA”, to signal to the audience the time span of the activities that were taking place, added to the sense of dread and foreboding. However, this time around the technique seemed to make the film seem more dragged out. About the halfway into the movie, I could hear the impatient sighs of many of the audience members each time yet another time stamp appeared on the bottom of the screen.
With a much larger cast, (the first “PA” only had the appearance of 4 characters for the entirety of the film), I had a hard time even keeping up with everyone. I knew I wasn’t alone in this, after the film’s credits rolled at the end, one of the women that was seated in front of me was trying to explain to her the differences between the female charters in the film who all had black hair, he apparently lost track (bless his heart!) Additionally the overlapping dialogue of character’s which was used frequently, added to some of the confusion.
With the exception of the dog and the baby, I had a hard time connecting with these characters. Kristy rubbed me the wrong way in one of the first scenes when she was talking to her infant son for the cameras and told him that the maid was going to be responsible for most of his care.
The initially unbelieving husband/dad provided most of the film’s comic relief which made him more likeable. His best one-liner was delivered to his wife after she started getting more freaked out about the strange happenings to which he quipped: “we can’t let the terrorists win.”
Also, it seems that this cast was given the direction to “act” a lot more which also subtracted from the reality aspect that worked so well with the first film; which included a lot of ad libbing from Katie and Micah. I don’t know about anyone else but I liked the fact that Katie was a normal looking girl who probably carried a couple of extra pounds and some cellulite (no offense, Katie Featherston). In this movie, her sister Kristy came home from the hospital after giving birth to Hunter, looking like she’d just spent a day at a spa or something.
Some fans will appreciate the fact that somewhat of a back story to the hauntings is provided but I feel like this back story is being used as a vehicle to make more sequels to the movie. God bless America!
Overall, I did like “PA 2.” It delivered many scares and was just as creepy and entertaining as the first movie. However, the plot flow at times seemed contrived and sometimes a little confusing and I just didn’t feel as emotionally invested in these characters as I did with the characters in the first film. I urge fans of the first movie to check this one out; however, I left the theatre questioning whether or not another film was even necessary.
Let me know what you think.