Sunday, April 10, 2011


It was clear as day that Paramount would orchestrate a sequel to the 2009 surprise hit "Paranormal Activity". Hell, even "The Blair Witch Project" had a sequel. A really bad one, but a sequel, nonetheless. "Paranormal Activity 2" is not like that one, though. It doesn't attempt to change the rules of the game. That would have been a recipe for disaster. The camcorder first-person experience is back and upgraded. It's just too bad that they couldn't devise a more interesting story.

The target of the supernatural pranks is the Rey family. Already you can notice an upgrade to the original. We go from two people to a family of four : mother, father, teenage daughter and new-born infant. An apparent burglary at their house prompts them to install a camera system throughout the house. Notice, the second upgrade. Now, we not only get images from a camcorder, belonging to the teenager, but also from the cameras spread inside, in a number of rooms, and outside the house, pointing directly at their swimming pool. No outside front door camera, though. That might have proved useful. Now here's the kicker. The mother, Kristi (Sprague Grayden) is actually Katie's sister. The Katie from the first movie, who was haunted and harassed by, it seems, the same demon. She makes some appearances in this movie too, as well as her boyfriend, Micah, who Katie will end up killing, as we already know from the original. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, this is a prequel. Everything that happens in this movie leads into the first one.

The malevolent being once again wreaks havoc, playing all kind of mind games with the Reys, only this time it becomes more clear what the demon is really after. Knowing the fact that this movie is a prequel, we sort of expect it to tie in with the first movie, and sure enough, it does, but I felt it did so in a lazy and poorly conceived manner. Worse of all, it took three screenwriters to do such an inferior job. The scares are all there and largely effective, but the whole multi-camera ploy somehow takes away from the tension of only having one image to stare at intensely before all hell breaks loose. Still, the sound design makes up for it, crafting one scary jolt after another. The characters are sufficiently human in appearance to hold up as demon fodder. They just have to scream, wince and gasp. It's not Shakespeare.

I truly believe the idea of a sequel or prequel to a camcorder movie takes a lot away from the realism. Why ? Because, you're too aware that it's a sequel/prequel. So much so, that you end up trying to spot references, thinking back to events in the first movie and pointing out moments that are simply executed the same way they were in the original. It takes away from the fun. So, if you've seen the first movie, I can, in good conscience, encourage you to skip this one. The reason why it fails is simple. It fails, because it tries to sell audiences the same formula, only slightly altered. Slightly altered as in it's a little different, but in essence it's the same. It just won't do. Oh, and sometimes they do cheat by withholding certain camera angles for the sake of generating suspense, when in fact it would seem natural to give us all the images relevant to what's happening. I mean, this is supposed to be a mockumentary, not a horror movie. The action feels less real, and more choreographed than the first movie. It's just another example of little things that take away from what made the original so freakin' scary and effective.

They've announced another sequel. Soon we will be blessed with "Paranormal Activity 3". The creative level of the series is fastly approaching the deep dark bottom of the abyss. While the original beat out a "Saw" movie at the box-office, I'm sure this franchise will meet a similar fate at the hands of some other up-and-coming horror franchise.


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