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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Paranormal Activity 2

This was, very simply, the most boring movie I saw last year. There were films that were even worse - shocking as that is to believe - but for z's per minute, nothing else came close. 

From (Originally published 10 December 2010)

What it's about:

A family move into a new home but soon find their humdrum lives disturbed by a very malevolent supernatural force.

What we thought:

$15 000 and $107 917 283. That's it. That's all you need to know about the Paranormal Activity 'phenomenon'. 

For those who hadn't quite figured it out yet, the first of those numbers is the estimated budget of the first Paranormal Activity, the second is the amount it grossed in the USA alone. It doesn't take a masters degree in mathematics to understand just why those numbers would prompt a follow up film. And it doesn't take a great amount of creative and intuitive insight to understand that those numbers are the only reason this sequel exists at all.

Of course, the same can be said for just about every sequel. The Empire Strikes Back, Spider-Man 2 and both Toy Story sequels may well be as good as, if not better than, their originating films, but they basically exist because the sums added up. There's nothing particularly wrong with this – it's just the way the game is played. However, every once in a while a sequel comes along that is so blatantly, so shamelessly, creatively bankrupt that it makes you re-evaluate even the worst, direct-to-DVD sequels. That's right, take a bow American Pie Loosely Presents: Band Camp XXXVIII: The Return of The Guy Who Knew A Guy Who Knew Stiffler's Third Cousin – all is forgiven.    

Paranormal Activity 2 is one of the most crassly cynical sequels to hit our cinemas in a long, long time. Even Jackass 3D had at least some kind of non-fiscal point to it. Now, granted, the point of it seemed to basically be "Isn't poo fun?" but, hey, at least that clearly works for some people. The only way Paranormal Activity 2 will possibly work for anyone is if they haven't seen the first one, are unable to see the first one and yet, for some unknown reason, still want to see the second one. Even then, I doubt it.  

Here's the basic formula of Paranormal 2: take the budget of Paranormal Activity, multiply it by 200 (to no noticeable effect) then regurgitate the exact plot and apply it to different but related characters several months before the events of the first film. That was the first part of the plan. So far so good. Sure, it already entirely nullified any sense of originality or intelligence but that was clearly not what they were going for anyway. So who cares, right? 

With the basic premise set up, the – and I use this term very, very loosely – "brains" behind the whole operation went on to perform their real coup de grace. Paranormal Activity 2 is not merely creatively bankrupt, not only does it have no reason to be in our cinemas whatsoever, it is also really, really, really boring. And by "boring" I mean that it is likely to have you gently rocking in your seat, pulling at your hair and trying desperately to hold on to your seat and those last shreds of  sanity as the endless waves of tedium threaten to engulf everything that is now, ever was and ever will be, you.

It's dull is what I'm saying.   

If the first film was scary at all, it was because it built up its scares by slowly increasing the intensity of the weird happenings and interspersing it with a whole lot of quite boring, mundane moments. That's pretty effective, no? Paranormal 2 with its "more is more" and "bigger is better ideology" is rather less effective. 

Even if we put aside the fact that the supposedly scary moments didn't work at all for me because I knew what to expect after seeing the first film – and that's a very big if - they're still clearly less effectively executed than their counterparts in the first film because loud bangs and shrill screaming are apparently much more important for good horror than slowly building tension and a sense of unease.  

But you know what's apparently even better for great horror? Hours upon hours of miserable, life-sucking mundane banality with a bunch of bad, amateur actors going on forever about nothing at all to no real purpose. It's like Big Brother but with lots of loud ba- It's exactly like Big Brother. Now, I know that Big Brother is a truly horrific indictment on the state of modern society but I really don't think that's what anyone meant by "horrific". But then, Paranormal Activity 2 is not what anyone would call "horrific" either – at least not in the way they'd intended.

South African readers (if you still want to) buy Paranormal Activity 2 from Take2 on either Blu Ray or DVD (coming April 2011).

International readers buy it from Amazon:

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