HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (2010) and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2: TOKYO NIGHT (2010)

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I thought I’d wrap up my recent look back at the Paranormal Activity sequels… as well as a review of the new Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones with a look back not only at the first sequel/prequel Paranormal Activity 2, but with a review of an unofficial direct sequel made in Japan called Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (2010)

Not often do sequels live up to the original… and this sequel doesn’t quite rate an equal… but Paranormal Activity 2 does a good job of keeping up with it’s predecessor well enough. Director Tod Williams uses your familiarity with the first chiller to mess with you and up the ante on the goose-bump factor. He knows when you’ll expect something and more importantly, when you’re not. PA2  is cleverly written and is a nice companion piece to the original as it is both sequel and prequel, fitting with the original like an adjoining puzzle piece. This film involves Katie’s sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden), her husband Daniel (Brian Boland) and step-daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) as they welcome new baby boy Hunter (Jackson and William Prieto) into the house. Soon after the baby’s arrival, the house is broken into and strange things start to occur. In response, Daniel has security camera’s installed while Ali starts to carry a camera around with her everywhere, thus keeping in line with the found footage format as we are allegedly watching that footage. Daniel refuses to believe what Ali and Kristi are starting to suspect, that they have another new arrival, other than the infant son, and this one isn’t as cute and sweet.

Paranormal Activity 2 takes place, mostly, 2 months before the first film, allowing for appearances from Micah (Micah Sloat)and Katie (Katie Featherston) and it explains a bit more as to why these occurrences are happening and how it wound up at Micah and Katie’s house a few months later. And without giving anything away, PA2’s timeline does catch up to it’s predecessor during a final act which had the preview audience screaming almost non stop. Which is why these flicks are best seen with an audience. To reveal any more would ruin a fun and spooky follow-up and for fans of this series, it is exactly that. The cast all do good work and come across as a family and I found the Rey’s quite likable and that helps your concern for them and it was fun to see Micah and Katie again too. PA2 won’t convert those who didn’t appreciate Oren Peli’s original scare-fest, but for those that did, it’s a sequel that smartly remains familiar enough to it’s source yet, shakes things up just enough to satisfy and entertain. Well done! Also stars Vivis Cortez as the Latino housekeeper with a handy knowledge of the supernatural.

PERSONAL RANT: I respect that a lot of people don’t hold this sequel in the same regard I do, but one of the things that annoys me is that the detractors always go to the ‘haunted pool cleaner’ as a major argument point. If they were paying attention, there is a scene where Daniel clearly demonstrates to Ali and Kristi that the pool cleaner is simply malfunctioning. So it is not possessed, it’s a red herring and helps to further serve Daniel’s disbelief that there is anything supernatural going on. I respect opposing opinions, but picking on and twisting points that are clearly explained just to further your viewpoint, not so much.

3 and 1/2 spooks!

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BONUS REVIEW

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2: TOKYO NIGHT (2010)

Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night is an unofficial Japanese made sequel to Paranormal Activity where brother Koichi (Aoi Nakamura) is…for some reason (maybe it was explained, but the subtitles on the print I saw were pretty poor) using a camera to document while he cares for his injured sister Haruka (Noriko Aoyama), who is wheelchair bound. When strange things begin to happen around the house, the brother continues to document as the paranormal bumps in the night escalate and it becomes clear there is something malevolent in their home. And since his sister was injured while in the US in an accident involving the demon possessed Katie from Paranormal Activity, is this any surprise?

Despite the new setting, the addition of Japanese spiritual culture and making the antagonists brother and sister, Japanese offspring of Peli’s runaway hit is basically made from the same formula and is practically a remake of PA1. Writer/director Toshikazu Nagae does deliver some amusing bits…including using a split screen effect as the siblings have separate bedrooms and thus a camera in each, so you have to keep an eye on two rooms at once…and it does have a few spooky moments…including a creepy hospital set ending…but everything is just too familiar to make it anything more then just a curiosity for fans of this series and it sure won’t recruit any new ones. In an odd way it does fit in, to a degree, with the rest of the series, so if you are a completest, you may want to seek this out. To my knowledge there was never any legal action by the Paranormal Activity creators or Paramount Pictures, but maybe they found it as mildly amusing and ultimately harmless as I did.

2 and 1/2 spooks!

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PA2: Tokyo Night also follows the Paranormal Activity series’ tradition of cuties for leading ladies with Noriko Aoyama…

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: KATIE FEATHERSTON

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This installment of Halloween Hotties takes a look at the paranormally beautiful and very talented Katie Featherston, a girl next door from the lone star state of Texas who has been capturing our hearts and scaring us out of our wits in the Paranormal Activity movie series.

click on the highlighted links to read a review of Paranormal Activity featured here recently in our Date Movie column at MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse! And click HERE for a more in depth look at Katie’s character in our Why Do Good Scares Like Bad Girls expose’ of some of Horror’s recent femme fatales. And for fans of her co-star Micah Sloat, we take a look at his character here!

KATIE FEATHERSTON

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Texas born Katie Featherston has long dreamed of being actress. She studied acting at Southern Methodist University graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts… beauty as well as brains… and headed out to L.A. to seek her dream like many other acting hopefuls. Answering an ad, she auditioned for a role, along with another aspiring young actor named Micah Sloat, for first time filmmaker Oren Peli’s supernatural themed thriller, Paranormal Activity. Peli liked the dynamic between Katie and Micah and the rest is history. The actors where paid around $500 each for a week’s work where they would not only be doing a lot of the filming themselves, but improvising most of their dialog as well for the now classic found footage haunting flick. The film became a huge hit after gathering a reputation playing film festivals and Katie’s character has now appeared in all 3 smash hit sequels with another on the horizon… though her participation is being kept secret as always, we can only hope she will haunt us again in PA5. But fans may not know that Katie was also in 2 other low budget horror flicks before Paranormal Activity hit big. She played a rescued victim of a serial killer in the 2006 low budgeter Mutation and the loving girlfriend of the main character in the gory Psychic Experiment which finally got a recent release and made good use of Miss Featherston’s star power featuring her prominently on the movie art despite her role being a supporting one. Katie also recently had a multi episode role in Oren Peli’s supernatural found footage TV series The River as a camerawoman on an ill-fated expedition. Paranormal Activity is now considered a modern classic and it’s sequels are very popular all around the world and whether she’s playing an angel or a devil, her work in the horror genre makes Katie one of our favorite Halloween Hotties!
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As a potential victim of a serial killer rescued by a pursuing detective in Mutation...

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…As loving girlfriend Elsbeth in Psychic Experiment

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…in a quieter moment as ‘Katie’ before all hell breaks loose in Paranormal Activity… 

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…under the thrall of a supernatural fiend in Paranormal Activity’s chilling last act…

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…looking adorable with the equally cute Sprague Grayden who plays sister Kristi in PA3…

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… as “Rabbitt” an ill-fated documentary crew member in Oren Peli’s short lived TV show The River…

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… stalking her prey in Paranormal Activity 4

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…and as herself, a beautiful and talented young woman we’d like to see a lot more of!

BONUS: watch this very funny skit as Katie pokes fun at PA‘s effect on her auditions…

And don’t forget to check out our Halloween Hotties focusing on Melanie PapaliaKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard, Alexandra DaddarioKatrina Bowden, Briana Evigan and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages!

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DATE MOVIE: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)

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Welcome to a new feature I am experimenting with, Date Movie! Horror flicks are great flicks to take a date to or to watch with your honey… unless of course your date or mate hates horror flicks then there’s always the latest from Sandra Bullock or Channing Tatum. Horror flicks are a lot of fun to get scared with and hold onto each other and well… hopefully you can take it from there. But, you have to choose the right horror flick as something too mild won’t provide the proper scares and something too nasty or violent might put your date out of a romantic mood or make it your last date… unless for that rare occasion where they are into the rough stuff, then maybe you should be a little afraid. So, I am going to try to focus on flicks I think are perfect for scaring the object of affection into your waiting arms… the rest is up to you.

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)

Paranormal Activity began screenings at film festivals in 2007 but, it wasn’t until 2009 when Paramount Pictures picked it up (with a little help from some guy named Steven Spielberg) and, after briefly considering remaking it with major stars in the lead, wisely decided to release it with only a few tweaks including a new ending. the rest is history as the series has now grossed over $700 million worldwide. Not bad for a flick that cost only $15,000.

While this series has divided some fans, I enjoy them and I especially think this first flick was very effective and quite spooky fun. It’s a simple found footage flick that uses an old fashioned smoke and mirrors approach which is refreshing in a time of CGI overkill. This movie uses your imagination against you, as nothing is more frightening than what your own mind can conjure up and Writer/Director Oren Peli knows it. The movie starts out with an attractive young couple, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) who are experiencing some odd occurrences in their home. Gadget happy boyfriend, Micah decides to get a camera and set it up in their bedroom to capture whatever is happening when they sleep. Obviously, they find they are not the only occupants in the house but, what has moved in has targeted Katie and is far from a friendly ghost. Oren Peli perfectly manipulates the audience throughout the 90+ minutes of the flick’s running time. You know something is going to happen, the ominous rumbling on the soundtrack tells us so. You also know it will be worse then what came before, as the incidents are escalating, but, you don’t know what or from where and by the time it happens, our imaginations have got us so transfixed in tense anticipation that we jump out of our seats when it does. The fact that this happens at night while the protagonists are sleeping adds to goose bump factor as they are at their most vulnerable as would we be. The characters are portrayed by then unknown actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat so, they come across as real people and are likable and sympathetic. Katie is a strong spirited girl being slowly broken by the supernatural presence that seems to be targeting her. Skeptical boyfriend Micah is stubborn, prideful and can be a bit of a jerk sometimes but, his love for Katie seems genuine and sadly, his attempts to protect her only provoke and escalate the malevolent entity. Another thing that makes their performances so genuine is the Oren Peli cleverly let them improve their roles. His script was a basic story outline and both actors improvised their own dialog and thus gave life to their own characters. This really makes you believe you are watching the events unfold with a real couple. Featherston and Sloat also have a real great chemistry and their interaction with each other makes their relationship seem real and it is key in making the movie work. They and Director Peli also give the invisible yet malicious entity a strong and threatening persona despite the fact that we never see it and this makes it the threat it needs to be for the film to succeed. And it does. The last act and climax still give me chills and goose bumps even when watching it now. My one complaint involves a cheap scare involving a CGI image (the only CGI in the movie) that I felt was unnecessary. I understand that the filmmakers wanted one more jolt to give the audience at the point it occurs but, I actually thought what was there was creepy and unsettling enough and the actor involved was providing sufficient chills without the cheap scare… but it worked so, I can’t hold it against them too much. Spooky, fun, minimalist horror and an inventive use of the found footage format that, while not creating it, gave it a massive push into becoming a major sub-genre!

Read more about Katie’s character in “Why Do Good Scares Like Bad Girls?” here …

…and my in-depth look at Micah Sloat’s character here

So, the film gives us a young couple whom you and your date can identify with and provides plenty of chills and thrills to get you reaching for the comforting arms of your equally spooked companion… that equals a strong 3 and 1/2 on the Date-O-Meter!

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CHARACTER AUTOPSY: EXAMINING MICAH, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY’S OTHER MAIN CHARACTER

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EXAMINING MICAH: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY’S OTHER MAIN CHARACTER

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As a fan of the Paranormal Activity series that is now into multiple installments, I thought I ‘d take a look back at the original film and do a little exploring of the film’s other main character, the ill-fated Micah, who, for obvious reasons, has been left behind as the series moves forward…

The character of Katie is the one that usually gets all the attention from fans of the Paranormal Activity series as she is an important character both as a child and now as an adult and has played a part in each film. Also because Miss Featherston seems more than happy to be the spokeswoman for the series during their release. Micah is actually a major player in his own way. His character and actions allow events to unfold that not only, and obviously, effect the outcome of Paranormal Activity, but thusly allow for the events that follow to unfold now that the series has been continued and the mythos is expanding.

At the onset Micah doesn’t seem to be a bad guy. At heart, I don’t think he is. He is a young, fairly handsome day trader who seems to have a genuine love for his girlfriend, Katie. He does have an obnoxious but funny sense of humor (so do I so, I can relate) and from what little we see of their life before the activity starts, he seems to be like most guys his age, into music and gadgets and making money. He seems like the college frat boy type and might actually be fun to hang out with at a party or a pub. Probably the guy who always tries to be the life of the party and center of attention. Maybe even the class clown as a kid. He’s cocky, but gives the impression that he can be very sweet especially when he doesn’t have an audience to play up to and he is alone with Katie. No more evidence than when her friend, Amber comes over and Micah suddenly becomes the demon crushing alpha male.

Initially he seems genuinely concerned and protective of his girlfriend despite being very skeptical of there being anything supernatural going on. Just the fact that he has bought the camera to record whatever is happening, despite his intense doubts, shows he cares enough about Katie to try to solve this little mystery for her, to put her mind at ease. The same can be said of his agreeing with her to invite the psychic into their home, despite his disbelief. But it also shows the first signs of a personality trait that will ultimately be his undoing and set in motion events that will carry on for years as the current series timeline suggests. As he openly, but admittedly playfully , mocks Katie and the idea of the psychic, we start to see evidence that cockiness is giving way to a larger character trait that will become his biggest character flaw. A trait that will ultimately blind him to not only realizing there is something really dangerous going on, but will blind him to the fact that his courses of action are doing his girlfriend far more harm then good…
…Arrogance…
Micah is more than cocky, he is arrogant. He is determined to solve this mystery himself. Early on it comes across as typical male pride like not asking directions when lost, but as the situation worsens, his arrogance grows to the point of dangerous, as he refuses to admit he has a problem requiring him to swallow that pride and call those who can deal with it. Arrogance to the point of ignoring that he is actually putting Katie in further danger. Arrogance that plays into their supernatural guest’s plans perfectly.

Micah’s arrogance makes him completely manipulatable by the demonic entity which has throughout the film shown an intelligence and an ability to do exactly that with both characters. This is an aspect of this film that detractors overlook, how cleverly this invisible character manipulates and breaks down our young couple using Micah’s pride and Katie’s fear against them. As for Micah’s arrogance aiding this malevolent spirit, look no further then the sequence of events involving the ouija board. Katie forbids Micah to bring one into the house, but he arrogantly uses a loophole in the wording of his promise to bring one into the house anyway. He ‘borrows’ one instead of ‘buying’ one. This creates a major wedge between the characters that never really heals and this allows the demon to isolate Katie enough to wear her down. She no longer feels as close to Micah as he not only betrayed her trust, but even when he knows how upset Katie is, he refuses to let the subject drop widening the gap between them further. Regardless of how hurt and angry she is, he obviously still thinks he is right. Micah’s arrogant pride continues to allow him to believe he can somehow deal with this entity on his own, despite it being obvious, he is in over his head and his girlfriend is at risk. The more he challenges this being, the more negative energy he creates and the more he empowers it. The more it frightens Katie, the more arrogant Micah becomes about dealing with it on his own terms. It also weakens his girlfriend because, she already knows Micah can’t face this thing and she feels isolated, afraid and helpless as he refuses to get her proper help. There is also a touch of resentment and anger toward Micah as he accomplishes little and she continues to be victimized. Even worse, his inability to solve the problem triggers insecurities which even has him lashing out at Katie, alienating her further. The final act of arrogance is to destroy Katie’s cross which was the last thing she felt she could turn to for help once their relationship disintegrates. Their faith is never discussed, but at this point Katie was turning to God for help with the cross as a physical symbol to hold onto. Micah destroys it in anger, symbolically destroying Katie’s last foothold of strength and hope. Now alone and weakened to the breaking point, the demon finally possesses poor Katie which leads to Micah’s death at her hands and then the killing of her sister and family, the taking of her nephew and the death of a few others as the series continues. His arrogance lead to his own doom and the death of others and a possible worse fate for Katie depending on where this series takes her. The sad irony here is that right before this final horrifying moment, Micah concedes defeat and offers to take Katie away, his love finally overcoming his arrogant ego and agreeing to leave the home he was fighting for to save her. Unfortunately too late, as the evil has already taken hold and he actually meets his fate charging in to save a screaming Katie and right into the demon’s trap as his possessed girlfriend murders him. Personally, I feel this does redeem the character somewhat for his arrogance as he does die trying to save her.

Obviously, if Micah was a different person and had properly gotten help there would have been no movie, much less a series, but it doesn’t remove the fact that within the mythos, Micah’s character allows for important and tragic things to happen and sets in motion events that are still expanded on as the series continues. With all that being said, it wouldn’t be fair to not acknowledge actor Micah Sloat for his contribution to the character. A lot of Paranormal Activity was improvisation, with Sloat and actress Katie Featherston improvising their dialogue with story direction from director Oren Peli. There was no script in the traditional sense and both actors deserve a lot of credit for creating their characters and giving them personality and emotional depth. The actors’ chemistry makes them very believable as a couple, no more evident than Micah’s scenes in Paranormal Activity 2 where, after a 3 year plus gap between the filming of PA1 and PA2, the two once again come across as a real couple and you get to glimpse a bit more of Micah’s warmer side. This re-enforces the notion that is not really a bad guy, just one whose pride overcomes his common sense. Sadly, to a tragic end. So, we must give Sloat the props he is due for creating a very human and ultimately tragic character that both amused us and pissed us off all at the same time and obviously is integral to the success of the first film and thus the series.

You can take a look at Katie Featherston’s character and some of the other recent ladies of horror in ‘Why Do Good Scares Like Bad Girls?’

-MonsterZero NJ

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