Friday, November 12, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

So, Paranormal Activity was easily one of the most terrifying, and yet awesome, horror cinema experiences I've had in my life. Granted, I don't go to the movies nearly often enough, but the prices in this country is high , and most main-stream horror is usually... lacking, at least the ones who hit the silver screens around here. When I heard word of Paranormal Activity, I was surprised, and also a little apprehensive. Horror sequels are seldom good, even to the rare good horror flicks. Could this one be different, though? As is starting to become a habit now, but there be spoilers, big ones, so be warned.

Actually, it's not entirely accurate to call PA2 a sequel, most of it happens before PA1, and the main characters are Kristi, the sister of the girl in the first film, her husband, resident skeptic and pop-cultured snarker, Dan, his daughter from an earlier marriage, Ali, and the newest resident of the house, Hunter. Oh, and there's a dog, and an invisible child-snatching demon. Yes, the demon from the first movie is out for first-born sons this time, the movie actually goes so far as to suggest that someone in the family line further back traded their firstborn son for success and riches, but didn't provide a child with the appropriate chromosomes, causing the demon to go all Repo Man on the family for generations. Either that, or it wasn't picky with the gender, and said deal happened much later, or, a third option, the demon doesn't give a shit about deals and just wants a juicy 'lill morsel to snack on, ruining a couple of lives in the process.

So yes, the cast is much bigger this time, and that's not all. The family has, after what was assumed to be a burglary, but probably wasn't, installed security cameras all over the house, and it's through these we see most of the action, although there's a couple of hand-held camera bits. In a way, this could lower the immersion somewhat, as more cameras did with REC2, but with PA, there always was signs of editing, like speeding up the video to surprisingly terrifying effect, so it feels logical that someone cut together the material into one package. One terrifying, terrifying package.

I'd say the horror is very much alive in this installment, the scares are of a similar nature, but mixes things up a little, enough to keep us uneasy. There's this rolling bass sound which precedes a lot of scares, and I'm not really sure if it's supposed to be in-universe, or has been added afterwards, since nobody acknowledges them. Still, the way it kinda increases in volume without really hinting at a crescendo anytime soon before shit getting very real very fast was surprisingly effective. Some scares are a bit... uh, like the baby being pulled by the unseen force. Sure, it worked in 1, but that was in the climax, they could sell you pretty much anything at that point, but it came a bit early in 2, I think. Most of them were rather excellent though, my favorite probably being every cupboard in the kitchen busting open with a loud bang in the middle of the day. It was the point where the demon demonstrated (pun not intended) that A: It wasn't fucking around, and B: It could fuck with you during daytime, if it felt like it.

Actually, I'd say the scariest bit of this movie was the end of the beginning, where scary shit starts happening, and you haven't quite gotten used to looking at lingering security camera shots of the empty house at night. That shit's freaky. Any place where there's supposed to be people, like for example houses, that's empty is just unnerving to watch, and it makes me glad I'm currently inhabiting a one room and bathroom apartment. In a way, it reminded me of my phobia of hotels. I guess phobia isn't entirely accurate, but hotels freak me out, nonetheless. A hotel is basically something that's not a home trying to be a home, and the degree of order and the lack of actual people makes it very unnerving. All in all, the shots of the empty rooms gave me a Silent Hill-esque feeling of dread, where I kept expecting something to jump out and go "BOO" any moment, and in a way found it more scary when it didn't.

Another fact I found sublimely terrifying was the realization that the events of PA1 was set into motion by Dan, who, with a little help from the Mexican maid, manages to sic the demon on Kristi's sister instead. Even worse, this only buys them about 2 months of peace until the problem comes back to bite them in the ass. Hard. It's actually a little interesting, since Dan for the longest time was what my friends over at TvTropes call a Supernatural Proof Father, a patriarch who is the last to accept that some serious supernatural shit is indeed going down. Usually, this guy either goes insane and/or possessed or saves his family, and dog naturally, at the very last moment. This version of the guy? Well, he tries the latter, but it didn't really help much, so in retrospect, it was kind of a pointless dick move, but I guess he had no way of knowing. Also, the family dog is, as dogs usually are in these situations, aware of something spooky going down, and at one point even tangles with the beast. Luckily, this happens off-camera, and thus, it doesn't get silly.

Actually, the movie has a good couple of moments that could seem silly, and actually kinda does, in retrospect, but in the movie, it's pretty much got the atmosphere to carry the scares and make them believable. Could just be me, but I also think the acting was slightly better this time around, so all in all, I'd say Paranormal Activity 2 was a worthwhile sequel, hell, easily one of the better horror sequels I've seen, but I kinda think they should stop here, sure, there's sequel material, but I'm struggling to see how to expand more without compromising the quality. Then again, maybe they've got a triology planned out, and as long as they don't answer too many questions, I'm kinda ok with that.

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