Ladies and gentlemen. You are about to witness possibly my most controversial movie review to date. Why do I say this? Because what we are dealing with is possibly the most controversial movie of the year 2010. Whereas there are movies this year such as “I Spit On Your Grave,” in which a woman is sadistically brutalized and raped by locals, or “Kick-Ass,” which features twelve-year old Chloë Moretz pervasively uttering four-letter words and decapitating enemies more than double her age, “Paranormal Activity 2” has a different kind of controversy surrounding it: critical feedback. As far as I know, people either loved the first or hated it with very (I mean VERY) few people in the gray area.I just so happen to be one of the people who liked the first. Quite a bit actually. While it did not offer a traditional method to horror that I think turned a lot of people off, I believe that the film was a smart and interesting “horror” movie (although I think of it more as a thriller myself). People complained about the extensive amount of scenes revolving solely around the couple (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat), but I found it totally necessary. In a way, that is how it draws you in and it is also what makes you stick around. By setting up a foundation in the real world with credible leads, the actual paranormal activity that goes on feels authentic and strikes somewhat of a nervous chord in the viewer. That said, it never really takes off in being a truly terrifying experience.
Is it the scariest movie of all time like it was being advertised? Not even close. But I did have a fun time examining Katie and Micah go through hell and back courtesy of an unidentifiable ominous presence. Was it Satan? Was it a ghost? The film never told us. It let our imaginations fill in the blanks. Nine times out of ten, I will take psychological fear over the standard blood-n-guts routine. Now I did not really know how to approach this sequel because I did not know where else they could have gone with the premise. Though there was a good sense of curiosity within me, there was also fear and uncertainty (not the good kind). By and large, sequels to surprisingly good horror movies are awful. “Blair Witch 2.” See, I am already making you cringe.
What really blew my mind is how “Paranormal Activity 2” stuck to its guns. The same guns that made a small movie with a $10,000 budget become the title to kick “Saw VI,” the sixth installment of the yearly Halloween trend, out of its reserved number one spot at the box office. It makes me glad to see that even with a bigger budget (still only about $2 million), the film keeps its looming atmosphere fully intact. As a matter of fact, it multiplies the supposed nervous tension found in the first at least two times over.
Taking place a month or so before the original (August 2006), we follow Katie’s sister and her family: her husband Dan, daughter Ali and young infant Hunter. The family experiences a “break-in, nudge nudge” of their house in which everything is either broken or turned upside down. To solve the problem, Dan has a few digital security cameras installed to prevent an incident like this from happening a second time. Along with another handheld camera, the whole film is once again presented in this found-footage type of approach.
Documented on this footage are the several instances in which the Activity wreaks its havoc, whether it be moving a door three inches or possessing an unwitting victim. That is one thing I found quite peculiar in the first film; the Activity seemingly only caused a commotion at nighttime, as if it were somehow self-aware that the darkness made scenarios more frightening. Not to mention all it really did was toy around with Katie and Micah for the first hour or so. In “PA2,” It becomes a little bit more comfortable with the other times of day. Arguably, the most effective jump scare It causes takes place in clear daylight.
The sequel certainly cranked up the nerve-wracking anxiety from the first. I myself was genuinely on edge most of the time, whether it was out of anticipation or out of alarm. The movie is really intended to be an experience. In the theater I was at, the room was packed with people ready to jump as well as be entertained. The over-zealousness started off as detriment, but half an hour in I noticed that the audience had become fully engrossed. Even I got continuous chills for a straight five-minutes.
Not without its share of flaws, I found fault with a few characters as well as with the ending. This time around, the film has four (three not including baby Hunter) main characters as opposed to two. The time spent with each of the characters is much less parallel and not as tightly compacted as it could have been. And the ending…well, I will just say that filmmakers needs to get more creative with their wrap-ups when it comes to these mockumentary horror movies. Every single one has the same type of hollow, indefinite ending. With entries such as “Cloverfield,” “Blair Witch Project” and the recent “The Last Exorcism,” these endings have become obligatory and predictable. I hope that somebody eventually comes along and goes against this tired grain.
Despite these drawbacks, I had an absolute blast watching “Paranormal Activity 2.” The hooks are intriguing, the tension builds increasingly with time and the practical effects are put to perfect use. It does not accomplish much more than its predecessor did, but what we have here is a much more accessible and much more frightening haunted house movie. It obviously won’t be for everyone, but the way I see it, the “Paranormal Activity” name is two-for-two. That’s more of a triumph than most other horror franchises can vouch for.