Sunday, August 28, 2011
Movie Review: "Paranormal Activity 2" by David Pretty
For my review of Paranormal Activity 2 I was just gonna copy n' paste my review of the first film but for the sake of full disclosure, PA2 is admittedly a bit better than it's predecessor.
This time out, the film follows new parents Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden) and her husband Dan (Brian Boland) as they bring their new bundle of joy back from the hospital. Not long after an odd burglary occurs in which every room in the house is torn apart, save the baby's room. In response, Dan opts to install security cameras all over the house, which conveniently gives the audience lots of opportunities to witness voyeur-style, the increasingly odd occurrences in the house.
This begins innocuous enough with pans falling by themselves off ceiling hooks, high-chairs tipping over, an ambitious automated pool cleaner climbing out of the water by itself, a Mexican housekeeper who tries to purify the house and Dan's daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) getting locked out when a "gust of wind" slams the door shut behind her.
And of course, this is the great conceit of these films: the audience often witnesses more than the characters and, as such, can feel superior throughout the film. Especially when the idiots on screen decide for some reason not to watch all of the previous night's video footage as part of a good breakfast.
Now, given the presence of a newborn child and the frequency by which crap starts moving around by itself in the house, I was really hoping that this flick would be an original entry, perhaps seeing a new set of characters deal with a more appropriate threat like a poltergeist. Well, that wish went right down the dumper when the characters from the previous film show up and Kristi is soon revealed to be Katie's sister (Katie Featherston) from the previous flick.
As soon as I saw this, my disappointment was palpable, since instantly this flick was saddled with all the failures of it's predecessor. Sure enough, once again we're dealing with the way-too-ambitious bugaboo of demonic forces, which really makes the nominal threats posed by the film seem pretty anemic.
Although I'm being kinda harsh here, I still think this one is slightly superior for the following reasons. First off, I find the characters to be a bit more sympathetic than Micah and Katie in the original film. Although Dan does get a few demerits for throwing superstitious maid Martine out just for trying to cleanse the house of bad spirits (so she burns a bit of sage, big deal, put up a friggin' Airwick!), at least he doesn't actively court the vengeance of dark forces like Micah did.
I also think this entry doles out the creeps and scares in a more economical and increasingly elevated fashion, building up to a pretty hairy sequence in the basement when the demon is glimpsed briefly. Sound design is also exploited a bit better here, with a creepy, unsettling "white noise" effect whenever something freaky is about to happen and some bizarre disembodied noises. Even if this is slightly improved, the sound still isn't exploited as well a sit should be. In a film with a limited budget and with few visual payoff, scary and creepy noises should be the director's bread and butter.
When you get down to it, PA2 is just more of the same: static, endless establishing shots of parts of the house, a constant parade of creaky, opening doors, the odd item moving by itself and people being dragged around. Frankly, I've seen much scarier short snippets on the internet. The Paranormal Activity franchise certainly has the right idea, I just wish the producers would stop goofing around and REALLY let us have it. C'mon guys, I promise, we can take it!