Impressed with a DVD of a psychological horror “Paranormal Activity,” DreamWorks executives, including Stephen Spielberg himself, first planned to remake the film on a bigger budget. But since test screening showed the audiences loved it already, they gave in and released it. Instead, they got to play big with the inevitable sequel – but will the big investment help repeat the success of the first movie?
From the first glance, “Paranormal Activity” directed and written by Oren Peli, gives you a feeling that you’ve seen it all before. Exactly, in “Blair Witch Project.” Both movies are shot using simple video cameras, with part of the action happening out of viewer’s sight; both are based on actor improvisations rather than strict screenplay and dialogues, and both are among the most profitable movies of all time – made on a tiny budget and grossing around $200 million. The main difference is that “Blair Witch” was initially a hoax which played a considerable part in its success, while “Paranormal,” though employing the same “found footage” idea, did it without trying to fool anyone. As it turned out, a regular night vision camera was enough to create suspense, a strong feeling of presence and totally creep out viewers, causing the more impressionable ones quite a few sleepless nights.
But hoax or no hoax, a film, whose technique rather than story plays the main part, can only happen once. Audience sees it, loves it and craves something new. Judging by trailer, “Paranormal Activity 2” directed by Tod Williams, follows in the same lines as the original movie, once again blending “Poltergeist” with “Exorcist.” This is certainly a lot better than what the makers of the horrendous “Blair Witch” sequel tried to do – question is if that will be enough.
In “Paranormal Activity 2” is loosely tied to the events of the first movie which saw a young couple Katie and Micah trying to find out what was causing all those weird noises in the house by installing cameras all over the place. The two soon learned more than they ever wished to know and things eventually went from bad to utterly horrifying. This time, the footage comes from surveillance cameras installed in the house of Katie’s relatives – they’re merely trying to catch a “vandal” who, they believe, is breaking in the house at night. Instead, they will discover that mayhem is being caused by some unexplainable forces as well as Katie herself trying to get her hands on her baby nephew.
“Paranormal Activity” has three alternate endings and the one that made it into theaters is not only a perfect horror movie finale, but the only ending that makes way for the sequel, since Katie doesn’t survive in the other two. Micah is also supposed to make a comeback in the second part, though it’s hard to imagine how.
But to make “Paranormal Activity 2” really work, something more than a different house and different characters is required. If it leans too much towards the original – viewers may get bored watching the familiar setting, where part of the time you just sit and wait for something to happen. On the other hand, if it turns too Hollywood with all the usual thrills and scares, but only lacking the usual quality camerawork, it will neither impress. One thing’s for sure – the success of the first film will draw viewers eager to be scared to the cinemas in packs when “Paranormal Activity 2” premieres at midnight on Oct. 22 in the United States, UK and Canada. So let’s just wait and find out.