Friday, October 22, 2010

"Paranormal Activity 2" (2010)

"Paranormal Activity 2" is that rare horror movie sequel that is scarier than the first. And even with a new director (Tod Williams) and set of writers, this sequel expands upon the original story in a way that makes sense and feels organic. The premise is generally the same, except this time the ante is ramped up because rather than just having a stationary camera in a bedroom to obsess over each night, the set is widened to an entire house we have to worry about.

After a supposed break-in into their expansive and lovely home, a family decides to take some precautions and install some hidden surveillance cameras within different rooms of the house. Unlike last time when even we didn't know what was invading the house, this time we know and are forced to watch as the family unwittingly discovers it on their own. The cameras aren't placed for supernatural hunting but instead placed for our convenience of looking in on the nerve-racking activity, a very clever move by the filmmakers. The family's first clue of something being not quite right was when the break-in left about just everything damaged yet nothing was stolen.

We're given several viewpoints throughout their home--crystal clear in the daytime and the blue-tinted nighttime perspective we're used to from the first installment--including the swimming pool with an automated pool cleaner teasing us every time, the kitchen, the living room, the front door with the stairwell and the baby's room. A toddler and a dog in the mix are an intelligent addition as they add to the awareness without being able to verbalize it. There is less fast-forwarding time through the overnight sequences and more watching their reactions to disturbances in the night while the others remain asleep.

The terror and action, where frighteningly paranormal things actually start occurring, ramps up faster than before even when it is over a longer period of time. And unlike the predecessor where the light of day was a safe haven, that isn't so much the case here as equally terrifying things begin happening during the day and night. The setups will have you shaking with anticipation and suspense as each moment of a loud sound against complete silence is like a bomb going off, bombs that we know are coming. The trick is just not ever knowing when. And when viewing those still camera feeds, your eyes dart left and right to every edge of the frame making sure you don't miss any subtle movement.

The only reason "Paranormal Activity 2" is getting knocked down from the original's perfect score is due to the inevitable loss of authenticity. We definitely know it's all an act now, but what's more impressive is how scared it still makes us. It's a new formula that works, one that tickles the audience with a dread of the unknown, keeping us on edge for something we cannot even see.

My review of "Paranormal Activity"

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