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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REVIEW: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES (2013)

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES (2013)

The previous entry in this found footage franchise was widely panned as the weakest of the series, even by fans and while I didn’t think it was as bad as it was made out to be, it was still the lesser of the series and was showing a franchise in need of either fresh ideas and more daring directions, or a final chapter to wrap it up. The Marked Ones is definitely a good start back in the right direction and a spooky sign that these movies may not be done yet, if this is where things might be headed. Fans of this series will be happy to know that not only does this supposed “spin-off” get PA back on track but, is more reliant on actual scares than jump scares and answers a lot of questions that the other films have set up. It ties in perfectly with the previous entries and yet is it’s own flick.

The movie starts out with friends Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) who live in an urban neighborhood and have a downstairs neighbor Anna (Gloria Sandoval) who is said to be a witch. One night this ‘witch’ is murdered and Jesse and Hector…who are always filming things with a new camera…choose to sneak into her apartment and poke around. They find the woman’s journal and it does indeed seem to indicate this mysterious woman was into the black arts and was part of a witch coven seeking to build an army of demon possessed first born males. Jesse wakes up the next morning with a bite mark on his arm and things start to get weird and Jesse’s behavior starts to change with heightened aggression, strength and an almost supernatural ability to keep himself from harm. This causes Hector and Marisol to investigate further…which includes meeting with Ali Rey (Molly Ephraim) from Paranormal Activity 2…and they soon find that Jesse may have been marked by this coven since before birth to become the next soldier in this nightmarish army. Can they save him or will Jesse be damned like the others before him?

Writer/director Christopher Landon answers that question… and many more… with a truly ‘crap you pants’ finale following a fun and scare filled flick that is both familiar and fresh at the same time. He knows how to build scares and he does so slowly with a film that builds it’s momentum steadily till a really intense last act that leads up to one of the best horror movie endings in quite a while and a climax fans of this series will love from between the spaces of the fingers that are covering their eyes. Landon cleverly ties this flick in with the previous entries and we get references galore and revisit a few familiar settings as well. As for the return of any other familiar faces other then Ali, you’ll have to see it to find out.

The cast are really good here. Our three leads are very likable and supply some fun laughs early on, especially from Diaz’s lovable goof-ball Hector. Jacobs makes a solid leading man and we like Jesse and feel for him as it becomes obvious he is in deep supernatural trouble. The camaraderie between the three makes Hector and Marisol’s efforts to save him seem real and the risks they take believable…and messing with a demonic worshiping witch cult is risky, as we find out.

So, in conclusion, Christopher Landon has things back to form and even shows promise of more intense things to come. He makes good use of the found footage format which is far less obtrusive here then in the last flick and he has a nice visual style to add to the atmosphere. This is also the most violent entry in the series and one of the scariest since the first flick so, this film earns it’s R rating from more then just a few curse words and snapped necks. If nothing else, Landon gives his Latino themed entry in this series a really great ending that will stick with you for a while after leaving the theater, especially if you are a fan. Let’s hope they can keep this new momentum going with future entires. It may still not attract any new fans to the series, but should rejuvenate the interest of fans disappointed by PA4. Well done and a lot of scary fun!

3 and 1/2 spooks!

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