There is one very simple reason why the first "Paranormal Activity" was such a staggering success. Those people at Paramount sold their movie incredibly well. Sensing they had another 'Blair Witch Project" on their hands, they marketed their film as one of 'the scariest movies of all time'. Trailers showed just how terrified audiences were with real life camera footage (on a film about supposed real life camera footage) capturing all the jumps and scares in the cinema in all its grainy night vision glory. You were made to believe you had to see this film. As a result, curiosity changed from an original and ultra low budget indie horror experiment, to a film that effectively boiled down to a dare on the audiences behalf. And they accepted in their droves. The first "Paranormal Activity" is one of the most successful films ever made. From its original budget of a mere fifteen thousand dollars, it went on to gross over $193 million. However, with all this huge hype behind the film, the finished product could never withstand it all. I greatly looked forward to the films eventual release (I had heard about it quite some months before it was finally released) and felt it would be a very welcome surprise to see an original and inventive American horror in what seemed like a very long while. So while it was fairly original and certainly inventive, the final product just didn't impact me the way I had originally envisioned. Having said that, I can certainly imagine what it would be like walking into this film knowing next to nothing about it, and the shock it would have. But it is a tiny and very limited resource horror film. When the biggest of Hollywood blockbusters are struggling to meet the hype bar they are setting for themsleves, then what chance did this single location, zero CG effects, no name chiller have? And whats more all it had to fall back on was its gimmicky premise. Supposed 'found footage' in cinema has been going for decades now. Even more recently the marketplace (especially horror) has become crowded with them. So my opinion of the original was this: as a very cheap exercise in how to get an effective and neat little horror movie in cinemas, it worked. And at the very least the fact that the film attempted to create an atmosphere for itself, as opposed to relying on gore and cliche tricks of the genre, a lot must be said. However, as the experience it was built up to be, the film never once delivered. But with opening numbers like that, is it really so shocking that its sequel has been rushed into production in time for Halloween and in exactly a year since the first films release?
The "Saw" franchise has, for the first time in 6 odd years, a competitor to its yearly Halloween throne. In fact, the first "Paranormal Activity" was so successful, it seems to have buried the "Saw" franchise once and for all, with its supposed final offering out this week. While this should be cause for celebration in itself, especially if you feel the same way I do about the "Saw" films, then consider now, that "Paranormal Activity" films will now be clogging up the multiplexes every year for the foreseeable future. The films, so cheap to make, must be sending their makers laughing all the way to the bank. However, and this is something I never anticipated; but "Paranormal Activity 2" is actually rather good. It is exactly what a decent sequel should be: it opens out the world and provides some backstory, it ups the game and stakes, and it offers more of the same except, y'know, slightly different. If you detested the first one then Part 2 will do absolutely nothing to sway you, but I have to say, I more than once felt myself gripping my armchair in tension. Unfortunately it may also seem that me recommending this film, based on the first ones successful critical reaction, can do nothing but take away from the experience for you. If the first one couldn't withstand the hype, then chances are that this one can't either. After all, these are films based on waiting. Waiting for something to happen. Anything. And as a result, there is not really much action in the film at all. But if your up for going along with the film, then there is no reason why you can't get the shivers as I did more than once throughout the running time.
The plot initially surprises as being set before the events of the first film. This is one of the successes of the film, that in its mere story it actually improves the first one. Kristi and Dan move back home with their brand new born baby Hunter. Documented by Dans daughter Ali, we see the family and watch Hunter grow. The protagonists here are actually presented as likeable, compared to the slightly annoying owners in Part 1. With a family we relate to, more characters-one of them an infant, tension is immediately raised when all sorts of spooky goings on begin to happen. We learn that Katie, from its predecessor, is actually Kristis sister. Both her and the soon to be doomed Micah make appearances throughout adding a refreshing layer to proceedings. So we follow the exact same pattern as the first, as night time cameras are set up to document the house at night when its occupants have all gone to bed, and this is when all the eerie tension begins. Yes, the same title of 'Night #_' can initially become quite monotonous, what with the film intent on following the same tried and tested material, it is lucky the final product is as effective as it is. This is a particular wide frame with next to nothing happening in it. The sound turned low, your eye frantically searches the frame, looking for something that may be out of the ordinary. Then something loud or unexpected very abruptly happens. Yes, its cheap and yes it is not necessarily hard to scare audiences with it, but my God it works. It seems those in charge of the follow up also learned a few lessons of what was not particularly successful from the first one, and as such, the sequel features far more action and genuine scares, as opposed to just loud BANG noises of which the first had in plenty. Go along with it and you may find yourself shivering along to the scares, wether you want to or not. Acting is serviceable and all effects are competantly handled. When the action does kick off, he film itself is quite nicely reminiscent of "Poltergeist" and "REC2" from earlier this year.
So the film offers the audience more. It could be argued that in attempting to create a reason why the Demon has targeted all these people, takes away from the creepy unknown and random attacks of the first. But it also gives more drama and story in a franchise very much devoid of both. I know watching again won't give me anywhere near the same reaction, but the film actually had me at one or two points. To get that in major horror releases these days is rare. To get it from a rush-released sequel is rarer still. And yet "Paranormal Activity 2" succeeds despite this. It over comes its gimmick source, familiar origins and low expectation (hate in some peoples eyes) reputation to deliver despite everything going against it. It's not art, and it's no were near a classic, horror or otherwise, but it is cracking audience bonding flick. The collective tense-jump-laugh has rarely been this satisfying in quite a while. For attempting genuine fear and scares without resorting to shock tactics, "Paranormal Activity 2" must at least be given more respect than it has been getting. This franchise may be about to get old, but for now, Part 3 does not seem to be all that bad a prospect.
A very surprising roller coaster horror, that shocks in actually being more effective than its predecessor. Two excellent jumps, one or two nail biting encounters and an effective sense of dread in the atmosphere equals a very fun night out at the movies. Nothing to it, dead easy to make and mass produce, but it doesn't take away from the fact that the franchise knows how to unnerve its audience. Naysayers will not be converted, everyone else will sleep with the lights on.