Last year we were hit with a big horror phenomenon which came in the form of Paranormal Activity. An ultra low budget, small little shocker that built up a dedicated audience who then managed to get it out there to the public and make it a sleeper hit. Made for around $15,000 it took a staggering $195 million worldwide, making it one of the most profitable films in history.
The film itself was a tightly constructed and very creepy gem, which I found quite unnerving and well put together, with very good performances which made the ensuing horror all the more shocking and engrossing. It had a profound effect on many people, I admit to being scared while watching it but I will deny losing any sleep over it. Part of the success of the original was audience participation, in that you were more scared when other people felt genuinely chastised by it.
Now after the storming success, it would have been foolish for the studios not to snap it up and produce a sequel if not a franchise, especially considering it’s horror with a now recognisable title which has already had a direct-to-DVD rip off Paranormal Entity.
So for example the success of Saw series, allowed films like Hostel to be made. So in less than 11 months a sequel pops up. The short production time usually a good thing for horror, you strip it down and you do your best with the time you have and filmmakers show discipline and inventiveness with a small amount of materials. This time however it has cost them $3 million, so you have more toys to play with and with that comes a reliance on visual effects to scare people.
It is a shame to say that Paranormal Activity 2 is as feared, a film with too much money at its disposal, resulting in a film which is not only not scary but also quite dull. As mentioned by many critics, it follows a tired and hackneyed formula of …quiet… then BOO!
This isn’t scary when there is no context or emotional attachment invested in the story or the characters. What made Paranormal Activity interesting was the relationship between Katie and Micah, and the tension that was caused not only by the demon inside the house but by the camera which came between them and interrupted their personal space. Here there is none of that tension between characters and the scenes in between the static lock off shots of the bedroom are just mind numbing.
They also very quickly become quite annoying and make those in between scenes seem to go on for hours. The film plays out as a kind of prequel to the original in that the events happen before the main storyline of Paranormal Activity and then meld together in the end. The story mainly concerns Katie’s sister, Kristi who is married and has a young baby, who seems to bring with him strange happenings which first off seems to be simple robbery. For protection husband Daniel installs CCTV, however stranger goings on begin to happen.
The use of the baby within the narrative of the film becomes quite troubling, as it seems to be deliberately placing it in there in order to gain cheap scares out of the audience. The young child serves no purpose other than that. They also lose faith in using one camera, attempting to spice up their banal plot with six cameras which undercuts any build up of dramatic tension leaving most of the excitement to be had by jump scares. I have no problem with being jump scared, but there also needs to be an underlying creepiness if you’re going to do that which undeniably the first one had. You can get as much entertainment out of this film if I came round to your house and jumped out on you when you weren’t expecting it and wrecked your kitchen. It is lazy filmmaking and not nearly as effective or as claustrophobic as the more recent Buried
The fact is it isn’t anything to get worked up about because it is just a disappointing and very unremarkable sequel that carries with it the shadow of a rather good original which was stripped down and scary. Blair Witch also has a lot to answer for, despite the fact I think it has become very underrated, it should be held up as case and point for the recent ‘found footage’ films which have been uniformly terrible. Much in the same way that Scream did something subversive and actually brilliant but became responsible for the terrible, ‘ironic’ slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer, Blair Witch Project is responsible for films like Paranormal Activity 2, which in itself is just a hop, a skip and a jump away from Book of Shadows.
Paranormal Activity 2 is surprisingly boring, not scary and lazily made. This is hands down one of the worst horror movies that I've ever seen.