Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity 2 should be rightfully called, "Below Normal Activity." Because nothing happens in this film (even in the meager instances that they do).

When I came up with my own Movie Rating System, I actually never imagined using my lowest rating of "Sleep Aid" for any film-- Simply because I am a filmmaker myself and I respect the effort and determination it takes to get any Movie (no matter how lame) done.  But this se/prequel (or whatever it is) takes the prize! I actually had to struggle to remain awake.  If the film did not employ sudden loud sounds and bangs (cheap effects mostly used in bad horror/suspense movies), I would have surely slept my way through to the credits.

What amazes me about this film is its current Box Office success, which somehow redeems the Producers because they are the only ones benefiting from this film.  They were absolutely right on the money!  When a Movie becomes a hit, a sequel is a guaranteed cash cow (no matter how bad that Sequel turns out to be). The scariest aspect to this Movie might actually be its ability to earn despite being horribly bad-- a phenomenon that will certainly keep me awake at night.

It's ironic that I actually gave the original movie my highest rating "Absolutely Brilliant" (when I reviewed it last year), because it was able to deliver a high caliber horror film on a $15,000 budget.  This Sequel does exactly the opposite by using an infinitely larger $3 million budget to deliver an inferior Movie-- with exactly the same production value (shot on video) but with lesser grit and originality.  Where did all that money go?  There were no A list actors or special effects!!????  If they had Oren Peli at least direct maybe the film could have turned out better (what's the story on his Producer credit... was he booted out of this sequel? Akiva Goldsman was involved in making this film???? Seriously?).  Technique and execution will always be superior to mere Budget alone.

Peli was able to tap into our most primal fears by using classic suspense/thriller techniques on the original movie: limiting the paranormal activities at night (when we feel vulnerable); using only 'motivated' camera sequences; pacing suspense build-up; and using our own imaginations to intensify subjective terror. This Sequel does none of these right.  In fact, the Sequel's flaws go all the way down to the basics of writing and direction.

1.  Does the new story really need the original story and characters to support it?  I think that if it was written well, it would have been able to stand on its own.

2.  What about the amateurish way the screenplay was structured?  Is it a Prequel or Sequel?  Serving as both gives the viewer a peripheral perspective that decentralizes this Sequel and its characters.  Truly the best part of this movie is the missing middle part (which happens to be the original movie).

3.  After dragging the story for an hour and a half, the movie suddenly ends abruptly... Did the writers assume that we have all seen the original movie?  It was a good thing I saw the first film or I would have no way of understanding why Katie suddenly turned against her sister and brother in law.  A little more exposition on the original characters would have helped this second film (I would even go to the extent of using some of the older footage, if the filmakers are not inclined to reshoot).  I think Writer Michael Perry is not ready for Movies and should stick to writing for TV.

4.  Director Tod Williams uses a lot of 'unmotivated' camera work, which severely diminishes the affected "reality" being created by the video work.  Who is holding the camera in some of the sequences?  Does a normal person run to answer the doorbell holding a camera?  The father must have been a great football player in college, since he never drops the camera even while he is stumbling in the dark.  It was hilarious in certain sequences that the overall experience was at least entertaining.

I have spent too much time on this film already and it does not merit it.  Please regard my rant as a public service for you not to see this film.  Save your $10 for good dinner, then go home after.  The best place to sleep is still on your bed, not on a stiff chair in a movie theater.

Paranormal Activity 2 Official Trailer:

--Trailer courtesy of hollywoodstreams from

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