Movie Review: ‘Paranormal Activity 2′
There are certainly moments throughout Paranormal Activity 2 that will cause one to jump, gasp, and maybe even verbalize fears with tiny yelps and/or shrieks. Unlike the current trend of evoking scary through blood, guts, and torture, this film along with its counterpart, Paranormal Activity, uses scare tactics of an older tradition: things that go bump in the night. I can’t help but wonder if there were a lot of Vincent Price marathons going on at the creators’ homes when they first arrived at the idea for these films. There are plenty of doors slamming open and shut, people feeling an overall uneasiness about their surroundings, and of course, the occasional really big boom. In this respect, the film is a good time.
Not a sequel, this movie should receive a more deserved prequel status. It occurs a short period of time before the paranormal activities commence in the previous film with Katie and Micah. In this story, we learn about the oddities that happen to Katie’s sister, Kristie, her husband, step-daughter and infant. Still maintaining the raw footage/documentary feel, the first camera arrives because the family wants to capture all of the preciousness of the newborn son, Hunter. However, this is certainly not enough material to shape a horror film so conveniently a break-in occurs in the house, prompting the family to install hidden cameras throughout. Viola, the footage needed has been procured and the movie begins.
In doing this, the film moves slightly away from the original two people-one camera visual styling, while still keeping the overall tone of the film. Now the audience has more opportunities to see weird stuff. This gives us the chance to see more of what we could only previously hear. There were a few moments where I felt as though I was watching a behind of the scenes of the first film. Is this what was “really” happening when Katie and Micah were asleep? It’s just plain fun and there are a few moments throughout that are genuinely creepy. While its execution could be construed as gimmicky, the attempt to give the audience more, while still feeling the same, overall works.
One of the greatest strengths of the first film, however, is that there was no explanation as to why Katie and Micah were being terrorized. There is a malicious demon wandering through their house at night. It seems intent on taunting them and slowly driving them crazy and that is all the audience knows. The visiting psychic even states that sometimes demons harass people for no understood reason. I have learned through my years of scary movie watching, that the people who need to be weary of demon possession are children, religious zealots, or the Deep South. Katie and Micah were none of those things and by keeping the motivations of this evil entity disclosed, it keeps the audience uneven.
This is a biggest variation between the two films. Part Two attempts to explain the coincidence of two sisters being bullied by the same demon. A brief examination on demonology and the sisters’ ancestral history thus begins. Instead of creating an experience about the unknown, the film becomes riddled with justifications about why this is happening. The film falls flat with recycled explanations about why demons do what they do and it inevitably ends up feeling cliché. Basically, they explain the creepy away.
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is about thousands of birds attacking a town. That is the plot. The birds seem super sinister and they want to kill people. They appear to be conspiring, but no one can be sure. They linger on telephone lines menacingly staring down at Tippi Hedren like she fed one of their pigeon-friends rice at a wedding. However, neither the audience nor the characters have a clue as to why these birds are so pissed. That is what is so haunting about the film. If there is an understanding as to “why” the bad things do what they do, there can potentially be a resolution to the problem. And resolutions aren’t scary. Also, once the villainous monster gains motivation, then empathy can potentially occur and what is scary about a monster that you feel bad for? Nothing! Isn’t that what Monsters Inc. was all about?
There have been a few moments in horror that have lingered with me throughout the years. There is that freaky, very naked, hot-turned-old woman getting out of the bathtub in The Shining, the tomie rapidly crawling through the blankets to attack its victim in Ju-on, or, of course, the sinister smile on Anthony Perkins’ face in the final shot of Psycho. These are moments that will probably send chills down my spine for the rest of my life. Paranormal Activity had one of those moments. Its sequel did not. I fear that it could have, if it wouldn’t have to tried so hard to explain why bad things happens to good people and just accept that sometimes they do.