Paranormal Activity – Okay, let’s just kick right off here with lazy film referencing 101. This movie is, as others will tell you, kind of like The Blair Witch Project but set in a house where a young couple, Katie and Micah, are experiencing disturbing phenomena during night-time hours. The activity appears to be centred around Katie, who has been through a similar experience on more than one occasion, but it’s her partner who becomes steadily more determined to confront the spiritual perpetrator and try to end things once and for all.
Wow, just wow. There were a hell of a lot of people around claiming that this was the scariest movie of the last 20 years or even the scariest movie they had ever seen. While one should not denigrate subjective personal opinion I find it hard to believe that genuine horror fans have not seen a few movies scarier than this one. Is it actually scary? Despite the fact that the chills are too sedately paced and almost all of the easy “jump scare” variety I would have to say that it is a genuinely scary experience. Masterfully overcoming it’s relatively tiny budget and making the most of the naturalistic camcorder record of events, this movie is one of many that proves you don’t need millions of dollars to get great results.
The two main actors, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, do very well in their easygoing, “real” performances and manage to convincingly portray two people rapidly having their nerves worn away over a short period of time.
Writer/director Oren Peli deserves a lot of praise for creating and executing a simple, yet fantastic, concept that will impress many but leave UK fans of Ghostwatch (for example) feeling a little de ja vu and maybe even quite a bit less impressed than audiences elsewhere. Still well worth supporting and definitely worth giving at least one watch but I did feel quite angry with myself afterwards for being so put on edge by little more than a bedroom door.
Paranormal Activity 2 – After the staggering success of Paranormal Activity it was no surprise to anyone that another was quickly put into development (even less surprising after the quick cash-in came along, named Paranormal Entity).
Actually more of a prequel than a sequel, though it’s a bit of both, the events of this movie focus on the household of Katie’s sister, Ali (Molly Ephraim), and her family, which now has one extra in the form of a toddler they have named Hunter.
Coming from someone who didn’t really enjoy the first movie all that much anyway (though I did rate it above average because of the simplistic greatness of the concept and the execution of the whole thing), there isn’t all that much I think I can say about this far inferior follow-up.
While it’s nice to see that some thought has gone into linking the movies and creating some continuing narrative thread, the ideas and plot devices used are both irritating and pretty unbelievable. While the first movie started to take a downward turn, in my view, when some backstory began to come out that was supposed to add eeriness to the proceedings the second movie starts from a low level and just keeps sinking. Not only is there an attempt at backstory and explanation of events but there’s also the additional annoyance that nobody seemed to consider the events shown here when the events depicted in the first movie occurred. There IS some attempt at making this excusable but, frankly, considering what everyone goes through in both movies I cannot believe that nothing would be discussed by the parties involved and that no teamwork would happen, hopefully putting an end to all of the horrible happenings before things went too far.
The scope is widened, with the footage this time round coming courtesy of a number of camera installed as part of a home security system, but this also proves more of a stumbling block than bonus. I have the same problem with the premise this time around that many others had: why go to the trouble of installing a pretty expensive, technologically shiny and super duper home surveillance system and then never ever checking the footage (okay, Ali’s husband checks it once to see just why the pool cleaner keeps moving out of the pool every night . . . . . . like that’s the biggest concern the household has).
Like most sequels, this adds plenty and loses focus of what made the original so good (for those who liked it). More cameras, more potential victims (there’s also the teenage daughter, Kristi, and a spooked maid, Martine)and more physical interaction between the living and the something else. Sadly, nothing is backed up by any decent building of tension or horrific realism with the exception of one enjoyable scare onscreen as Kristi glimpses her mother through a partially open door . . . . . . . . and then doesn’t.
When things sink so low that even the ineptly executed “running about in a basement with night-vision switched on” doesn’t raise any hairs on the back of your neck then you know that something’s amiss. Perhaps the scariest thing about the whole experience of watching the movie is knowing that a Part 3 has already been given the greenlight.
DIRECTOR: OREN PELI/TOD WILLIAMS
CAST: KATIE FEATHERSTON, MICAH SLOAT, MOLLY EPHRAIM, BRIAN BOLAND, SPRAGUE GRAYDEN
RUNTIME: 86 MINS APPOX (99 EXTENDED VERSION)/91 MINS APPROX