In the year 2009, the Saw franchise died. Jigsaw had his last reign over Halloween weekend at the box office as audiences clamored to see a film that was simplistic in nature, Paranormal Activity. The little film that could captivated audiences by using a simplistic approach and a few creepy black and white camera tricks, convincing audiences that things that go bump in the night really do haunt you in your sleep. Some people screamed at the horror of Paranormal Activity, others scoffed, but it began to usher in a new era in horror. The recent olden days had focused on dramatic gore and visual stunts, but Paranormal Activity simply played with people’s minds convincing them that every foot step and every bump was demon hell bent on making your life miserable.
Halloween 2010 brought us what is said to be “the final chapter” in the Saw franchise after getting spanked in the box office the year before. Paranormal Activity fans may have been also pleased to see that another round of paranormal goodness was set to go round as well. Lionsgate wisely chose the week before for the release date of Saw 3-D, not wanting to go head to head with the new king of scary flicks, the paranormal franchise. Viewers flocked to theaters to see the second coming of haunts, but did the sequel do justice or did the makers just pull a Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows on the audience? Now released on DVD, you can curl up on the couch and find out for yourself.
It’s hard to really pick on a film that tried hard to stay true to its roots. Paranormal Activity followed Katie and Micah as they began filming their daily lives after they became convinced that they were being haunted. The companion film relies on a similar nature, but instead focuses on a bevy of security cameras to pick up the action. This new approach works on some levels and fails on others. It gives us more angles to look for action but is used horribly by the director to jump cut around to different areas of the house to try and enhance the “upcoming fear.” Mixed in with the security cameras is home video footage that helps enhance the plot and allow for yet another vehicle for the paranormal elements to be caught on tape.
My biggest beef with the hand held camera in this film is that I didn’t know why it was there. It was never clearly defined. In the first film, it is obvious that Micah is trying to record life to capture a ghost. In the sequel everyone is denying that the paranormal exists. Therefore why are they taping their every day lives on a camcorder? Scenes such as a routine breakfast, or 2 characters discussing a typical day are recorded for no reason. In reality no one would routinely tape their day to day lives if they were not making a documentary on their boring lives or if they truly thought something special or unexplained was going to happen. The only person who had any “creeped out” feelings was the Hispanic maid (who looked like Consuela from Family Guy) but she was fired early on for her vocalizations that something wasn’t right in the house.
Security cameras pick up the slack in the world of Paranormal Activity 2, giving viewers full view of the house at all times. We don’t have to rely on characters moving the cameras, but instead can jump around the house like a 3rd person party creepily watching security monitors. This new security system is explained away by a burglary that occurs early on, but apparently they bought the pick of the litter in security cams. The cams film in full color and also pick up crystal clear audio. I’m not saying these don’t exist, but it seems to me to be a leap for the family to purchase such an elaborate system. These cameras also pose a problem simply because of the way the film uses them, constantly cutting like a child with ADD bouncing from one image to the next. Because we were moving from camera to camera so much it was hard to appreciate the subtle movements of things, or the silent, calm right before the storm of activity. In fact, the film jump cuts to a blank camera mid scene of creepy activity happening in the child’s room. I don’t know about you but I don’t care what is going on in the safe and sound stairwell when a baby is about to levitate in his bed!
What I enjoyed about this film is the storyline approach. Paranormal Activity 2 isn’t really a sequel. It isn’t exactly a prequel either. The film takes place nearly simultaneously with the original film, focusing on Katie’s sister and her family. The activity in her house is similar to the activity in Katie’s house until eventually the two story lines intersect. It was really quite fascinating to see how the writers managed to intertwine these two tales and come up with a tale that is quite chilling. It also boasts the return of Katie Featherston who plays up her girl next door beauty to perfection making horror geeks and young boys salivate. Katie may not be a great actress but let’s face it, no one is really watching Katie Featherston for the way she delivers her lines!
While this film ditched many of the subtle elements that Paranormal Activity capitalized on, there was still something successful about Paranormal Activity 2. It felt the need to double the cameras and double the paranormal action when it did occur but it didn’t over do it. If your mind racing a million miles a minute like mine does, you’ll have enough kindling for a non stop fire of what-if‘s and why are you doing thats? But if you go in looking to be creeped out, you just might have some fun with this flick. At the end of the day, the studios didn’t kill off the Paranormal Activity franchise yet. However if you’re curious how to kill a horror franchise, take a look at what they did to Blair Witch with Book of Shadows someday and anxiously await them to eventually do it to this franchise in the future.