This is, obviously, a sequel to the low-budget, high-profile horror film of last year, Paranormal Activity. For those of you who didn’t see it or don’t know what it was about, it was a supernatural horror film about a couple being haunted by a demon, filmed with a hand-cam, amateur, The Blair Witch Project feel. It received a lot of praise from various quarters.
I wasn’t a fan. I’m sorry, I know many will disagree with me, but it just fell down as an entertaining film. It started off strongly, and the last thirty seconds were absolutely sterling as far as this sort of thing goes. But from about thirty minutes/an hour in, it dragged. It repeated set-pieces, and made us watch the confused couple watching the very footage of nocturnal demoning arseings-around we just watched ourselves. It got tedious.
So when I heard that they were doing a sequel, I wasn’t overly optimistic about it. But, to its credit, it wasn’t the same as its predecessor. I actually think it might have been worse.
This time we’re treated to a full family, being harassed by a mischievous demonic force, as observed by a host of CCTV cameras. Eventually. The amount of back story we get is incredible, and I really was looking at my watch by about the half-hour point wondering when we were going to get to the horror. Most of the introduction, showing us the family, their new son, their bloody house, could have been cut. We could have figured out who they were and where they were for ourselves, thanks.
Once the haunting does get started, it takes an equally leisurely pace. Now, as a disclaimer, a lot of the stuff here relied on fairly quiet noises to alert the audience to the creepyness. That wasn’t altogether helpful from my perspective, as I seemed to have chosen a showing populated by people utterly uninterested in the film. The level of ambient noise in the theatre was awful, and I suspect I missed a lot of the subtleties.
But that aside, the haunting progresses very slowly. I suspect they’re trying to build atmosphere, but it didn’t work. It might have, had they not wasted my time with an irrelevant intro, but by then I was bored and wanted it to get to the point already. Once it does kick off, it had some fairly impressive moments, chief amongst them being the scene I can describe only as the “full kitchen sneeze”. Seriously, if you watch it, you’ll see what I mean.
The ending was fairly good, too. It was better, I think, than the end of the first film. It had more story to wrap itself in, rather than being purely a shock-based ending, and the way it interplayed with the first film was well-written, and took me a while to see coming.
But in the end, Paranormal Activity 2 was let down by the same thing as the first film. There just wasn’t enough material there to fill its hour-and-a-half length. With both of them, if they had been short films (somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour) then I’d probably be singing their praises. But my guess is that short films don’t make the money, so they padded them out to feature films, and as a result spoilt what could have been brilliantly atmospheric films.
Low-budget, hand camera based horror films can work very well. The Spanish zombie/demon film [Rec] was great, primarily because it wasn’t padded out. Everything that was there felt that it needed to be there. And at no point did it bore me. The same can be said of more recent, more American offering The Last Exorcism, which despite Eli Roth’s involvement I also enjoyed.
So it can be done. I don’t know, maybe for a spot of irony the Swedish film company who made Let The Right One In wants to have a go at remaking them?