Thursday, October 28, 2010

Movie review: Paranormal Activity 2

Let me take a moment to try to explain my taste in horror movies.

Freddie, Jason, Michael Myers... hacks and losers. All of them. "Alien vs. Predator 2" I classify with the "Nightmare on Elm Street", "Friday the 13th", and "Halloween" movies. They're about not terribly frightening characters chasing down teenagers in the woods. Or variations on that theme. There's very little suspense. The scary parts tend to be cats jumping out of closets. Or, in more recent movies, close ups of painful things happening. Things that aren't really scary, but make you cringe in sympathetic pain.

I like a movie that can give you suspense. Something that makes you anxious. "The Ring" was good, even if I did need to have the end explained to me. "The Others" was great. It got suspense, mystery, fear, and without using a drop of blood of fake blood.

And I loved the movie "Paranormal Activity". It had me sitting up, paying attention, looking for something to happen. And then stuff happened. A lot of the stuff that happened wasn't seen by anyone in the movie. It wasn't happening to get a reaction from the characters. It was happening to creep out the audience. It got the audience engaged and creeped out. It had suspense and things that made the audience jump. It started small and built up as the movie went on. And just in case you get it on DVD, you want the theatrical ending, not the alternate one.

Does that give you some idea what I'm looking for?

I'm writing this after coming back from seeing "Paranormal Activity 2". Before you see it, you really need to see the first one. Otherwise you'll be totally lost at the end.

"Paranormal Activity 2" is the real life story of a family with a one year old child.

That might be a bit unfair. Eventually it was about more than that.

It was disappointing. In the first one they made you look for some of the spooky stuff. In this one there was a lot of nothing happening. When something did happen you kind of got whomped on the head with it. And the house was full of people so there was always somebody to react to it. You never really got to be creeped out, never time for the spooky to sink in because there was always someone freaking out about it. It was rarely subtle.

Let me start again. "Paranormal Activity 2" is both a sequel and a prequel to "Paranormal Activity". It starts with a happy couple bringing home their new baby boy and going a bit overboard with their home video camera. About a year later they come home and the house is trashed. They install security cameras that look like motion detectors all over the house. Then nothing happens. Night after night nothing happens. We click through the security cameras each night and they show a still and quiet house. During the day people talk about stuff. The nanny is superstitious. The sister is one of the main characters from the original movie. The baby looks at stuff that isn't there. This goes on for way too long.

Eventually pots start falling off of hooks. Crash! Bang! Blah. But I will grant them the scene where all the kitchen cupboard slam open at once while the mom is in the kitchen. That got everyone to jump. That's as opposed to the scene where the sleeping baby was slowly pulled across the crib and up the side. That got laughs.

The scene where the mom had her feet yanked out from under her, she was drug down the stairs, and into the basement just doesn't compare to the scene in the first one where the wife had her feet yanked out from under her, she was pulled down the hall, and it tried to drag her into the attic. Partially because the first one spent a good deal of time getting the audience worked up. Plus, she was yanked a lot faster in the first one. In the second it was kinda slow and she fought it. When the female lead in the first movie acted weird it was just us and the unblinking camera that saw it. When the female lead in the second movie acted weird it was the daughter and her wildly swinging video camera that saw it and freaked out about it. And freaked out about it and freaked out about it and freaked out about it.

It's just... well... they needed to start us over again. Fewer surveillance cameras with longer shots. Make us look for the spooky. Start small. The pool skimmer in this movie I liked. Not spooky, but subtle. More with the upset dog, but only the dog and the baby noticing. I liked how this tied into the original movie near the end. But the demon played with the family in the original more than he did in this one.

I'm not really recommending this movie. Sorry. Go watch the original in a dark room again.

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