paranormal activity 2

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There is something about these movies that absolutely scares the shit out of me.

To wit: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more likely to cry during a movie than scream. I didn’t scream during the first one, but it was a well metered thriller that kept its high levels of suspense until the all-black credits.

This one, a prequel-ish movie, made me scream out loud twice. I wound up putting my sweater in my mouth for the last half hour just in case this shit got real.

It got very real.

This film, which tries to capture the lightning in a bottle of its predecessor, went the typical sequel route of more of the same but bigger. It worked the first time, don’t fuck it up.

This is where it succeeds, unlike the sequel to the Blair Witch Project. They made the creative to decision to, instead of making a typical slasher/supernatural horror film, take the bigger budget and bigger crew and create a bigger, scarier version of the first film.

Luckily, they also found a director in Tod “One D” Williams who could capture the same metered suspense that Oren Peli captured in the first film.

That’s why this film succeeds on an absolutely base level. It didn’t fuck with anything. It just got bigger. And tied itself into the original in a few very original ways that give an amazing amount of context to the first film.

And boy did it get bigger. The last twenty minutes of this film is some of the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. The movie trots along with weird shit getting weirder, freaked out people getting more freaked out and then, in the final third, everything just gets amped up beyond belief.

Horror films rely a lot on their sound design (and score) to create atmosphere and tension. Every door creak, every footstep, every little moment is nuanced to create that suspense.

This film does that to perfection–to an Oscar worthy level, even (Seriously? Seriously.). Every tense moment is preceded by an ominous, David Lynch-esque, low-bass rumble. So you know something’s about to happen. And the camera is static. There’s nothing, just this rumble. Then things start happening. I don’t want to spoil anything, but a lot of my reaction to this film was based on the way that they cranked it up to 11 during the most frightening scenes.

This is also known as the “startle effect,” when something jumps out at you unexpectedly and makes you jump. You’ve seen this before–like in Alien when Harry Dean Stanton (and the audience by proxy) gets startled by a cat coming out of a locker. This movie relies heavily on that–and, for once, it’s not a bad thing. Because it’s tied so well into the sound design instead of it just being faces jumping out and a violin shriek, it’s natural sounds crashing into unnatural sounds as something incredibly small–or, in some cases, nothing at all–is occurring on screen.

In spite of it being a found-footage film with all the rote shitty camera work, this is definitely one for the big screen simply because it’s a major experience to see it with a crowd.

When a movie like this gets its body count in the theater up towards max capacity, the tension on the screen becomes tension in the crowd. Everyone, except one douche boyfriend, is enraptured by what their watching.

That undivided attention, too, helps. I can’t imagine that this movie would work as well if I watched it at home, making a frozen pizza, checking my facebook (and probably naked). This is a front to back, all eyes forward, movie.

To work on absolutely gut-level, though, you have to buy into the premise. You can’t go into this movie jaded, thinking it’s bullshit, and ready to laugh at every moment. Your mind’s already made up. Stay home, check your facebook naked and watch a Saw sequel again.

If you go into this movie thinking, “I’m gonna get the shit scared out of me,” and you buy into it, then you’re in for the thrill of a lifetime.

You can’t just sit there, head in hand, observing all the plot holes and whatever. You have to give yourself over to this movie–especially since it gives back in a big way.

Oh, and one more thing:

I’ll be the first to admit that it was disappointing that this film had credits as opposed to the first one that just went black for a minute and a half.

I understand, though. It’s a bigger budget film and it’d be a real bitch to get everyone to sign off on completely forfeiting their screen credit like they did in the first film.

It was a nice touch, though, that they had 30 seconds of black afterwards and the credits were overlaid with creepy noises from the film. I’m willing to bet they couldn’t get the rights to Giacchino’s Ode to Godzilla (or something) that was over the Cloverfield credits.

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