Monday, October 25, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

MPAA (R), USCCB (A-III), Roger Ebert (1 ½ stars), Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb Listing -
CNS/USCCB Review -
Roger Ebert’s Review -

I enjoyed Paranormal Activity 2 for a number of reasons. First, I had seen and enjoyed the first Paranormal Activity movie when it had come out. Second, I was rather in awe of the first movie’s story telling on such a low budget. That entire movie had been made for something like $15K, which I found amazing. The second movie preserves the low budget feel and again tells the rather simple (horror) story well with minimal equipment or camera work. Finally, I had been directed to the first movie last year by one of our young people in the parish. And so I went to see it simply for the sake of better appreciating what young people are watching these days.

Paranormal Activity 2, is a horror movie. So if you don’t like horror movies, you will not like this one. Second, it is a low budget movie. As such the movie has limitations, which may bother some people. Everything takes place on the grounds of a suburban home in Southern California. Extensive use is made of footage from both hand-held (often jerking) “amateur” video cams as well as footage taken from off-the-shelf “home security cam” equipment. The extensive use of such “low brow” equipment to tell a story may irritate some viewers (though fascinate others, like, in fact, me).

I think that the use of such footage draws the viewer into the story for two reasons. First, it gives _the story_ a “documentary feel.” Second, the repetitive use of the “security cam” footage invites the viewer to play close attention to the soon familiar repertoire of surveillance cam shots to try to catch any and everything that may have changed ever so slightly from day to day (or night to night) in the scenes. I do think it’s brilliant, and serves to tell _this_ kind of (horror) story very, very well. It builds suspense and really makes one jump when things start to happen.

Regarding the story itself, it is to have taken place at the same time as the first movie Paranormal Activity took place. As such, the actors playing the young couple Katie and Micah in the first movie appear in the second. Those viewers who saw the first movie learn a little more about Katie’s family’s past, as the second movie is ostensibly about Katie’s older sister’s family. The plot itself is rather thin, but enough threads have been revealed (and, more to the point, left untied) to offer grounds for further volumes to be added to this story destined to grow to be a rather large (and wildly profitable) franchise.

However, returning to the camera techniques used to tell the story, I’ve seen three movies now (the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and now Paranormal Activity 2) that made use “off the shelf” video equipment to “tell a story,” but in each case, the story told was a “horror story.” It would interest me if the same techniques could be used to _effectively_ tell other kinds of stories. As such, R-rating (mostly for language) notwithstanding, I would recommend this movie to young people, even high schoolers (so long as they are not too sensitive to “horror type” movies, or their parents did not object to them) to _inspire them_ to perhaps pick-up their home video cam, digital camera or even their iPhone to see if a different kind of story could be largely told using that kind of equipment?

An “avantguard” / “techie” drama troupe (even one at a high school or college) could really have some fun.

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