March 6, 2011

Geek Weekly: Movie review – Paranormal Activity 2

I do realize that it's Sunday. The Life Sundays post is coming too, hopefully tomorrow. If you know me at all, the fact that I've gotten a bit behind is no surprise. The shocking thing is that it took an entire month for it to happen. But enough bluster, on to the main event!

I originally watched the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie intending to rip it to shreds (ha ha), but it was actually so bad that all I could do was seethe and rage. I also happened to rent Paranormal Activity 2 just for my own enjoyment, so I've decided to talk about that instead. We may revisit That Other Movie later, if I'm desperate for topics and feel the need to vent.

On to the fun movie!


I went into this sequel with no real idea of what I was getting into, so I was very pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Katie and Micah from the first movie, and rather devilishly pleased when I realized how the timelines of the two movies wove together. You can watch almost the entirety of the second movie, then stop it and watch the whole of the first movie, then the last few minutes of the second movie again, and the story is seamless. One thing that did bother me was the inclusion of the backstory, since giving an explanation for Teh Evil weakens it somewhat; the scariest stories are the ones where there is no reason for the victims to be targeted (i.e. The Exorcist or The Grudge). That said, I really liked the dark turn it took as the family makes the decision to transfer the haunting to Katie, thus setting the events of the first movie (and the subsequent results at the end of this one) in motion.

What this movie does so well (like the first one) is the slow build... ramping the tension up so high that it's almost a relief when the scare finally comes. For me, the hallmark of a good horror flick is how many times I end up hiding behind my hands, and it happened over and over again during this film. There's a delicate balance to that crescendo; if you get off too quickly, there's no satisfaction, but if you take too long to stretch it out, it can become boring and you barely even care when the scare does come. (Yes, like sex. I see wot U did thar.) The scene when all the cupboards slam open in the kitchen was so loud and startling that it sent my cats scrambling under the nearest furniture. It was the most fun I've had watching a horror movie in a long time.

Another thing that works really well is that you never see the demon. Horror movie monsters rarely live up to their hype, and more often than not once you see the monster, it becomes less frightening. The monster in Paranormal Activity 2 exists purely in the viewer's imagination, and is so much worse there than it could ever be onscreen. And the fact that the protagonists themselves eventually become the monster makes it all the worse, because how do you fight someone you love? How do you stop yourself from becoming the monster?

The sequel has a lot of similarities to the original, a lot of the same kinds of scares and tactics. I think this is a strength rather than a weakness, because it makes sense in the context of the films... after all, they are the same haunting. There is just enough of a difference to give the their own unique twist, and make both worth watching. If you liked the first one, there's no reason you shouldn't like this one as well. And if the first one scared the pants off you, this one should do the same. If it didn't scare the pants off you, you're lying. It totally did.

1 comment:

  1. I thought it was satisfying scare. It uses the same tactics but I thought the set up was feasible and the payoff works.

    I was a bit WTF at the ending b/c I saw of alt ending of the first, & I'm glad it ended the way it did (then I guess if it didn't the backstory wouldn't have made sense.)

    I did like the inclusion of the backstory for the reason you mention: the transfer of the demon to Katie sent a shiver down my spine. Although if it is a demon with no humanity, why would it need to strike a bargain or even haunt at all really. That seems like a human trait--or simply an attempt to set up a prequel to the prequel?

    I did like the connection between the two stories, it added a bit of emotion--pathos maybe?--for the characters.

    Agreed about the tension. I love the silence of the beginning. No soundtrack, just the whirring of the camera and the happy little pool cleaner doing its thing. The audience looking through the security camera adds to the pressure, I think.

    The portion where they're racing around trying to drive out the demon didn't really work for me. It felt like it lasted too long, and maybe because the characters were clued in at that point, I lost some of that connection. I did appreciate that they did try to get us in on the action by switching from the static security cam pov to first person.

    Anyway, great movie. It met my expectations.