Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 2

What does it mean when things go bump in the night? This was a question that was redefined with 2009’s unforseen hit Paranormal Activity, a movie that literally came out of nowhere and scared up a record breaking amount of money for a horror film.

Of course, due to the indie film’s success and the predictability of a Hollywood system based on box office returns, a sequel was imminent. The question that needs to be answered this go around is obvious: how does the sequel hold up?

Firstly, allow me to offer up a disclaimer. If you did not enjoy the first Paranormal Activity, there is no need for you to see this movie as they are heavily tied together. This said, the film is a spectacular piece of horror fiction and it stands as proof that sequels can (successfully) build off the original while keeping it in the same ballpark.

The scares are well crafted, the suspense is well placed and, much like the first film, it leaves you with an intense feeling of dread by film’s end.

At the beginning of the film, it’s established that Paranormal Activity 2 (PA2) takes place before the events of the first film. However, it eventually eclipses the timeline of the first movie, which makes it more of a quasi-prequel instead of a straightforward sequel.

This is where the difference in directing styles between Oren Peli (director of the original) and Tod Williams comes into play; while Peli made the film painfully suspenseful before delivering his climax, Williams has taken a more laid-back approach which allows for smaller scares that lead up to larger ones.

Thankfully, Williams kept the low-budget tone of the original intact, since what made the original so effective was how realistic it was; this, no doubt, was a result of the heavy use of practical effects in the first film.

PA2 takes the homemade feel a step further, however, employing methods that make the film horrifyingly magical and haunting (take Katie getting dragged out of bed in the first film and multiply that by twenty).

These moments are the ones that nightmares are made of and it seems that Peli, who produced the sequel, and Williams are more than aware of it; this allows them to deliver a product that makes you want to cuddle something for an indefinite amount of time.

The only problem I have with the film – other than not being able to sleep due to movie induced paranoia – is the de-mystification of the first film. In PA2, the filmmakers have decided to make the events of the original Paranormal Activity a direct result of what happens in the sequel.

I feel like much of the scare factor in the original came from the fact that there was no reason why the horrifying events were happening to Micah and Katie, but with the sequel, there is no longer any question as to why the first film happened. This isn’t a huge problem for PA2, but this particular addition to the mythos just didn’t tickle my fancy very much.

In the end, Paranormal Activity 2 is a spot-on sequel with a purpose: to scare you right out of your seat.

Thankfully, Peli and Williams were on the same page with fans of the original as they successfully sought out to create a film that is sleek, effective, hair-raising and will stick with you like white on rice much like the first film in the series. Just in time for Halloween, PA2 will make you wince at things that go bump in the night all over again.

“Hill House” A Campy Romp Through Great Gore, Gritty Music, Bad Editing

“Hill House” is an entertaining and campy film, but it also addresses more serious issues such as manipulation and guile. The film was written and directed by senior Ciaran Stone and stars Kyle Clothier, Kiki Possick, Max Heaton, and Morgan Brown, and was screened in Cole Cinema on Feb. 15th and 22nd.

The movie follows a crew of student filmmakers as they travel to film their zombie-infested world and attempt to get footage that will make them famous. The film team is sent to a house on a hill where they encounter flesh-hungry zombies, all the while dealing with internal group conflict. Disagreements result in their endangerment. Rash decisions in zombie films do not lead to positive results.

The plot in “Hill House” feels reanimated: it is a plot about college kids messing up when dealing with a dangerous zombie apocalypse. The dialogue is a little stiff too, but lends itself well to the campy-ness of the film. There are a few drawn-out scenes, when it seems as if there should be some sort of action. In one scene, the film crew is standing while the doors to the house are swinging open and closed. It did create tension at first, but it soon became monotonous without any further action. The scene could have been shot with fewer shots of the swinging doors. Also, later in the movie when the main character gets ripped in half the same thing happens – it gets repetitive. The basic understanding that he is in a lot of pain comes across in the first few shots of him getting mauled, and after that the shock factor wears off.

The characters could have used a little more emotion, especially when friends died or when they were trying to escape. The amount of fear and hysteria was not necessarily consistent with the situations. There was more emotion in arguing about picking up camera equipment than there was about seeing a best friend get ripped in half. Which is a shame, because the gore and blood were very well done. When a neck was gnawed upon or when muscle was masticated, it was gross. It seemed very realistic and there was a lot of attention to detail. The death scenes: shootings, chewings, and rippings were easily nausea-inducing and certainly made the audience uncomfortable.

The soundtrack, recorded by alumni Trevor Shipley and junior Rich Kolm, also fit the film’s gritty feel. The low-fi electric guitar and bass did a nice job setting the mood of inescapable, impending, brain-chewing doom.

This production did not shy away from exploring more serious moral ambiguities or exploitation issues that were interwoven throughout. For example, when would it be okay to sacrifice another human being? What does or should it cost to promote yourself? How far are you willing to go to get what you want? “Hill House” asked the audience these tough questions, but didn’t give answers. It showed what the characters in the film did, mainly using others for their own benefit, but that didn’t turn our too well for any of them. In an interview with Stone, he said the movie has a “fairly moral tone…definitely a lot to say about people who take advantage of each other.”

Overall, the movie was entertaining, gruesomely gory, and thought- provoking.