Praising a film for being cheap but looking more expensive that it is, is okay. The filmmakers have found a few old tins of fruit and spam in the cupboard, bought half a kilo of flour, and passed it all off as a lovely Hawaiian pizza. Good luck to them. They made an asset of having no budget.
But praising a newly-minted sequel for looking just as cheap as the one before, is as daft as praising a Euro-Millions winner for buying a mock-tudor mansion in Chigwell.
Paranormal Activity 2 is that mock Tudor Mansion. With a budget of several million dollars, compared with the $15,000 it reputedly cost to make the first one, new director, Tod Williams splashed out on a slightly more elaborate set-up. Instead of the ‘found footage’ concept from the original movie, which revolved around a single handheld camera picking up spooky goings on in a dark house, PA2 had a handheld camera and six security cameras, all still picking up spooky goings on in a dark house.
You can’t blame Paramount for wanting to cash in again on a film which was such a tremendous financial success. You have to admire them for coming up with a way of effectively remaking that first film, with the same creaking doors and invisible beastie, without making it seem terribly contrived. And it does deliver four or five big jumps (though all are somewhat telegraphed by a curious rushing sound which precedes each one). So those people who loved the first film and come to this one determined to be scared, will enjoy this as well. If they thought the terrible ending to the first one was the best part, then PA2, which introduces the standard horror tropes much earlier, might just be the best horror they have ever seen.
It is set sixty days before the events of Paranormal Activity. It has a series of cameos from the same couple, Micah and Katie. And is set instead in the home of Katie’s sister, Kristi. In danger are Kristi’s husband, his teenage daughter, the couple’s baby son, Hunter, and the family dog.
But, as cute as the baby boy is, delivering a whole family into peril does nothing for the claustrophobia of intimate terror, which made the first film such a success. Nor does setting the film in a huge, plush house. The footage from the security cameras is designed to make your feel like a voyeur into the normality of every day family life. But the set up is so interminably slow, and the family so characterless, that they succeed only in making you feel like a night-time security guard. (Only with fewer opportunities to tuck into those classic Russian novels. And a lot less porn). By day 17, if you don’t want the whole family dead or maimed then you have a heart of stone.
Even the most hardened food critic could enjoy a Hawaiian pizza if his student offspring had cleverly knocked it together from a few old ingredients he found in his cupboard. But pay good money to go to a restaurant and the critic could reasonably expect to get something better.