In the interest of a strong opening, I am going to spoil this right off the bat. Hell must have frozen over because we have two genuinely effective horror sequels! OK, so it’s clear that I thought PA2 was a “Hit”, but there is still cause to read further! It isn’t all sunshine and roses (or bumps and scares, more appropriately) in the latest installment of the biggest “shakey cam scarefest” since Blair Witch Project.
That’s right. I said “shakey cam scarefest”. I have decided that the “shakey cam”, the “faux documentary” has matured into a legitimate horror subgenre. [REC]. [REC]2 (is that how you write that?), Cloverfield, Blair Witch Project (the first one), Paranormal Activity (both) and many others all leverage the formula to varying degrees of effectiveness. At its worst, it can be a bit distracting or be used as something of a crutch, at its best it brings a new level of suspension of disbelief and audience involvement.
In my opinion, the first Paranormal Activity is among the very best of the genre. I think it played the same trick as BWP, in many ways, but it also learned from it and addressed some of the biggest complaints people had with that landmark film – the nausea, the possibly overly subtle payoff, the hugely dark setting… PA also succeeded in an area where only the best horror films do. As Jaws made folks subconsciously nervous about pretty much *any* body of water, PA did a great job of making an open door at 3am, or a snoozing partner, seem potentially threatening. I know I slept with one eye open for more than a few nights!
So with the bar set high, the creators set about producing a sequel. Given the returns on their first effort, they’d have been crazy not to. It is difficult to speak in detail about what they did without spoiling things, so suffice it to say that what they chose to do maintains the format, makes complete sense and keeps continuity. That’s all Im saying there.
In terms of bringing new tricks to the party, there was a fair bit of this as well. As anyone can see from the trailer, the ante has been upped by bringing a toddler into the mix. I had mixed feelings about this going in, as I don’t like seeing a child in direct danger, but it was handled well and I don’t think they crossed any lines. It definitely adds to the feeling of dread in major way. They also added mans best friend and, again, I think this was hugely effective.
Less effective, unfortunately, was the inclusion of a teen protagonist and the handling of the standard “hubby and wife” roles. I felt that they tried probably a bit too hard to replicate the “love/hate” relationship the audience had with hubby in the first film and also maybe didnt extract as much payoff from the female lead this go around.
Overall, though, these are minor complaints. The film is scary, startling and effective. Another big coup considering these movies feature no big money CGI scares and rely entirely on psychological dread. Fans of the series will almost certainly love it. I’d recommend folks new to the series see the first film first (PLEASE do this). Folks who hated the first one can safely avoid the second outing.
On my “hit” or “miss” scale I call PA2 a “Hit”!