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Paranormal Activity 2: Film review

Despite receiving mixed reviews, Paranormal Activity pleased many with its subtlety. Like most horror films, its success meant a sequel was inevitable. Corina Thorose finds out if Paranormal Activity 2 lives up to the original.

It was advertised as ‘the scariest movie of all time’ but Paranormal Activity failed to deliver the goods for a lot of people.  It was criticised as being boring, slow and devoid of action.  In short, it simply could not impress today’s torture porn generation.  To some though, this was exactly what made the movie so intriguing.  Oren Peli created Paranormal Activity with a gentle artistry that is very rarely seen these days.  It was made with a minimalist approach that has rarely been done since the seventies: the appreciation of being scared by what’s not there.

Instead of violating his audience with Hostel-style violence, Peli took the time to nurture the back story.  He created sympathetic characters and focused on their relationship and their life together – a life that is obliterated by maniacal workings of a hidden demon.  What was frightening about this movie was the element of suspense and confusion.  The audience never sees what haunts Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat).  Instead, they are left to fearfully wonder what is lurking in the recesses of this dark house.

Paranormal Activity 2, while not surpassing its predecessor, is every bit as good.  Tod Williams takes the reigns as the director and delivers full, lively characters who give way to despair and terror as they are tormented by an unknown entity, with one very important difference:  this time it’s after the innocent—a child.  A dog is harmed and a baby is dragged, while a mother is thrown down the stairs as she tries to protect them. No one is spared; the horror is that anybody could be next.

Strangely though, the characters initially maintain a stubborn defiance to the warning signs, refusing to acknowledge the danger.  The only one who seems somewhat cluey to the evil that threatens to emerge is the customary minority, the housekeeper, who is typically religious and wise to the way of the devil.

It’s not your average sequel.  Instead of just cashing in on the original, Paranormal Activity 2 is a prequel, bringing back Micah and Katie and explaining how they became subject to the hauntings in the first place.  The two storylines tie in with a few potential plot-holes, but they effectively work together to stimulate the audience’s mind as they try to figure out what could possibly be going on.

It delivers the same jump-in-your-seat scares and nail-biting suspense as the first and creates horror in a unique and strategic way.  It understands that to frighten someone, a movie need not be outrageously gory.  It gives in to the temptation of loud noises a few times, but still indulges in genuine tension and eeriness.  Moviemakers could learn a lot from the subtlety of Paranormal Activity.  It’s quality, not quantity.

Corina Thorose is completing a Graduate Diploma of Journalism at La Trobe University.

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