Feature Blogs

Paranormal Activity 2


Directed by: Tod Williams
Written by:Screenplay by Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon and Tom Pabst, Story by Michael R. Perry, Based on the film "Paranormal Activity" by Oren Peli
Released: October 21, 2010
Grade: B-

The original Paranormal Activity wasn’t an overnight sensation.  It first screened back in October 2007 at the Screamfest Film Festival.  Dreamworks picked up the film in 2008 for the relatively cheap price of $350,000 and planned a direct to DVD release.

That strategy soon changed.  There was talk of a big-budget remake but in the end, Paramount Pictures (who had bought the rights from Dreamworks) decided to give it a small release in cinemas.   It opened on 25 September 2009 in just 12 theatres.  It took in a mere $77,000 over its first weekend.

Word of mouth began to spread.  By the end of week 5, it had risen to the top of the U.S. box-office with a weekend gross of $21.1m.  By the end of week 8, it was being shown on 2,712 different screens.  By the end of week 14, it had finished up with total takings of $107.7m.  Some were calling it the most profitable movie ever made (in terms of return on investment).

I’m making reference to these facts because Paramount has gone with a very different strategy for the release of Paranormal Activity 2.  There have been no preview screenings (not even for critics) anywhere in the world.  I was told by the studio that they wanted to “avoid any plot leaks”.  I’m often suspicious when films are not previewed (they’re often bad) but went along with their justification.

This brings us to where we are now.  Tonight, I went along to the first screening of Paranormal Activity 2 on opening night here in Australia.  I knew that to get the most out of a film like this, I needed to (1) see it at night and (2) see it in a packed cinema.  I’d ticked both boxes.  That said, I was somewhat annoyed by the young crowd who had fun laughing / making stupid noises at inappropriate times.  I’ve experienced similar reactions at other horror films.  Apparently, today’s teenagers think it’s “cool” to disrupt the suspense.

I’m not here to sound like an angry old man however.  I’m here to critique this movie.  My verdict is mixed.  There are a few “jump out of your seat” moments but when you break it down, it’s just a simple rehash of the original.  My high expectations couldn’t be met this time around.  I wanted something more.

I won’t reveal too much about the premise because yes, I agree that the less you know the better.  If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know it centres on a family living in a large mansion.  They come home one afternoon to find the home ransacked.  Nothing appears to have been stolen but almost every piece of furniture has been upturned.  Worried about his family’s safety, the father organises the installation of 7 security cameras around the house.  It is these cameras (along with a handheld camera owned by the daughter) that provide the images we see on screen.

Whilst Paranormal Activity 2 isn’t as suspenseful as I’d hoped, I still admire its style.  It’s hard not to feel a slight tingle down your spine when you’re watching these grainy images on screen with no soundtrack.  You know something’s going to happen but you have to sit in your seat and impatiently wait for it.  It’s a lot scarier than the recent wave of slasher remakes (ala A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th).

Will we see more in the Paranormal Activity series?  I suspect so.  It’s a cheap franchise that is almost guaranteed to make money.