There is a tradition, one could even call it a genre now, of films (often horror films) supposedly cut together from actual documentary footage. It pretty-much began with Cannibal Holocaust in 1980 and then there were a few variations on the theme – such as the simulated live TV broadcast Special Bulletin (1983) – which is, if you’ll pardon my vernacular, fucking excellent - then there was the Belgian black comedy Man Bites Dog (1992) but, of course, the genre found its feet when The Blair Witch Project (1999) made almost $250 million on a $25,000 initial investment.
|You remember Blair Witch and its disappointing sequel, well, funnily enough ...|
Those numbers meant that a lot of companies tried to tap into that vein of hand-held, low-cost productions making massive profits, but no one really managed to strike it lucky. The Spaniards got it right with Rec (2007) but that was in Spanish so a lot of horror movie fans (who particularly enjoy the genre cos it doesn’t require a lot of reading) didn’t see it. Indeed, only now has there been an explosion in the numbers of such films being made since the steam-roller success of Paranormal Activity in 2009.
Now, like the fly of bad ideas heading towards then windscreen of inevitability, we have Paranormal Activity 2. Like the first film, it purports to be a documentary assembled from video footage taken by the family in the haunted house. Quite early on it teases you with a sub-title telling you that this was sixty days before one character’s death. One way to take that is “Ooh, there’s going to be a death”; another way to take it is “Oh, we’ve got to wait sixty days for the death”. I know which thought crossed my mind.
|Is that Yvette Fielding lurking in the doorway there?|
The Rey family live in one of those impossibly huge houses that movie characters live in; y’know, the ones who never seem to go to work and yet are loaded with dough. They have a pool and a nanny for their new baby. Daddy, Daniel Rey, seems to be batting way above his average as he looks like a middle aged truck driver but his wife is a lot younger and glamourous … er than you would expect. I guess that’s the appeal of a guy who can afford a house with a pool.
At one point, the smug gits have their house ‘burgled’ (lots of furniture is thrown about but nothing, curiously, is stolen) so they install a CCTV system and this, then, provides the bulk of the footage for the rest of the film.
We get a few subtle hints that all is not well … a door left mysteriously open, a pool cleaning machine that won’t stay in the pool but, by and large, you get 45 minutes (or almost exactly half the film) of sod all happening.
When stuff does start occurin’, we get tantalising hints but, as often as not, the camera cuts away to a frustrating view of someone somewhere else in the house missing all the action. Just like we are. Then there’s a few moments when you wonder why there is a camera there at all because, let’s face it, even people who feel that life doesn’t happen unless it’s been photographed and Facebooked, can’t be arsed to video everything. “Ooh, I just heard the dog yelping downstairs, quick, switch on the video camera before I go off to investigate but, whatever I do, don’t switch on any lights.”
The only real scare tactic this film has is the cattle-prod. Essentially it’s lots of things going bump. Long static CCTV shots of nothing happening in perfect silence are suddenly punctuated by a massive and very loud crash. This is, of course, going to make all the teenage horror movie newbies jump out of their skins and into the arms of their dates.
When the cameras go infra-red, the film suddenly has the aesthetic of those appaling Blue Peter Goes Ghost-Bustin’ type programmes that are so scary they are on (the ironically named Living channel) in the mornings.
So, all in all, this is a fairly uninspired retread of the first film, but it does, at least, abide by the first rule of sequels by having more of the same – so there are several shocking events that happen right at the end and, to be fair, the last ten minutes or so are pretty effective. My only problem was the hour-and-half of tedium I had to sit through to get there.
Dir: Tod Williams
Stars: Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Sprague Grayden
Dur: 91 mins (theatrical) 97 mins (‘unrated’)