When the first Paranormal Activity was released, it split the audience firmly into those who thought it was amazing and chilling, and those who thought it was absolute tosh. I stand as one of the people who thought it was an absolute masterpiece. And now, second time around, Oren Peli’s tale has been brought back with a vengeance.
Much as 2004’s Saw brought something new and fear-provoking to the world of horror; reinventing the genre for today’s audience with not just gore and scares, but an edge-of-your-seat narrative, so did 2007’s Paranormal Activity. Much like Saw, it was incredibly low budget, featured minimal cast and brought something epic to the abused and dried up horror genre of the 21st century. Of course, people saw that this was an excellent money-making opportunity; Saw was contracted into sequel after sequel, year after year: each year bringing an even worse film to the franchise.
So people of course, expected the same abuse to happen to Paranormal Activity when it became an instant hit. And so, the abuse happened as it was signed for a sequel. People groaned. People flocked to see it. They were thrilled. And now there is a third addition contracted for the later months of this year. Bad thing, right? Maybe not.
Second time around
This second installment is incredibly adept with its story-telling, taking the franchise to a whole new narrative level. (Awesome!) The first film spelled out a relatively rich mythology for main character Katie’s (Katie Featherston) family history, surrounding their haunting by a demon, which came back in her adulthood, possessed her and forced her to kill her fiancé before she disappeared. In 2, we don’t simply have a repackaged version of this story, but an elaborative prequel and simultaneous plot that stretches the audience’s knowledge on the history of the demon and why it came to possess Katie’s family, which succeeds in slapping the tiresomely annual horror sequel of today.
Not only does the film succeed in scaring the audience with its plot, but it comes back again with its strikingly terrifying pace and style. The minimalistic nature in which the demon haunts again (or for the first time, for pedants out there) is just as scary as the first. A slamming door here, a falling pan there, and a hovering shadow everywhere. The way the Paranormal Activity franchise continues to absolutely chill its audience with minimalistic action is phenomenal in ratio to the response that it is given.
This being a prequel, it does create some slight inaccuracies or audience-finger-wagging material; its failure to inform the audience in the first film that the main character’s sister and her family were haunted only weeks prior is slightly annoying (especially considering the fact that the ending to the first was changed twice from Katie ending up dead – in order to make way for a sequel) but that can be overlooked.
Watching alone versus the theatre experience
I purposefully made the choice to not go and see this in the cinema (which is why it is being reviewed as a DVD) because I knew that if it was anything like the first film, I didn’t want to go and see it with a bunch of people; where they would see me beating the record for Furthest Thrown Popcorn or Highest Pitched Scream. Nope, I wanted to watch it in the middle of the night in a dark room again and be scared to the bone because that’s what I personally feel that this is what this film is for.
The film-making style; a voyeuristic journey feels so much more intense when watching this personally filmed story in the privacy of your own home – on top of the fact that it’ll creep the hell out of you even more when watching, regardless of whether or not you have company.
I am, of course, a little sketchy about there being a third film since this one seemed to tie up any loose ends and elaborate the story as far as it could go from the first. And I may not be so hesitant about the film if it weren’t contracted to feature Katie and Micah (Micah Sloat) again – Micah having been dead since the end of the first film. But given the immense quality that this sequel has achieved, I am willing to give the film the benefit of the doubt and get excited for the third – even if it is slowly becoming an annual horror film; the very thing I despise. Hell, I may even go see it in the cinema to see if I can beat that popcorn throwing record.