Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2 [2010]
Starring: Nobodies
Directed by: Tod Williams

I loved Paranormal Activity 1, i still do, but i was really not very interested in seeing a second installment created. Once the second movie went into production, i was mildly interested, but pretty much sure it would be a mess. Now with PA2 released, i was surprised to see yet ANOTHER slew of strong reviews [just like movie 1] commenting on what a good job the producers have done a second time around. Although the buzz was great, i still went into PA2 with an open mind, but low exceptions.
I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of the film, in fact, it worked better as a film than movie 1 did at times.

The first PA relied solely on atmosphere and scares. There was a bit of background about the characters who were experiencing the demonic haunting, but overall, it was a fairly low key plot based movie that was all about what happened to a couple on a daily basis, rather than a big story. That wasn't a bad thing, in fact, it worked perfectly in the first film. In PA2 however, we get the usual things that made the first movie so effective, as well as a more fleshed out storyline.

Visually and atmospherically, PA2 is pretty much the same as PA1, and in a way that detracts from how effective the movie can be at times. In PA1, you weren't sure what to expect, you didn't know how anything would look or feel, it was a NEW experience. In PA2, you know what the playing field is like this time around. You know about the night cam, the slow build ups, the endless daytime goings on between characters, and the types of "bumps" and "bangs" that occur over the course of the haunting. Still, as less fresh as some moments can be, the feeling of danger and dread is still effective, just not as strong.
What really separates part 2 from part 1 is the connections between story lines between both films. It keeps things interesting. This time, you actually KNOW something about these people because of what happened in the first film. That familiarity brings on a new kind of creep factor, which puts a different spin on how you feel about what you see on screen. It's not fear of the unknown anymore, it's the KNOWING that actually makes you ask more questions because you are aware of what to expect.

Scare tactic familiarity aside, there are some genuinely creepy moments in this movie. Although the budget for the film has been duplicated by 10, they still keep everything fairly realistic and minimal when it comes to what we see on screen. The sudden creaks in the dead of night, and the intimidating thuds that rattle the house grab a strong hold of the viewer all over again. But it's the more over the top events that make the audience REALLY have a lot of fun. In fact, one scene in particular in the kitchen scared the living day lights out of me, and the ending of the film really keeps you on the edge of your seat.

As i mentioned before, the story does open up a lot more which for me is what really pushes this movie from a 3/5 to a 4. Without spoiling anything, there are a couple very cool twists that occur throughout the film that i didn't expect. The story also gets a bit more of a fleshed out background, while still not revealing too much. In PA1 we were dealing only with a young girl, this time, the haunting spreads out and reveals a lot more about the family Katie from PA1 came from. I actually REALLY look forward to seeing how deep they take this story, because there's some seriously interesting and creepy history behind why all this demonic evil is happening. I won;t say anything else though, best to go in with as little knowledge as possible.

One major complaint i heard from fans of the first PA was the cast. A lot of people found Katie and Meka rather annoying. Personally, they didn't bother me. This time around though, i think the characters are a little more likable, especially the young teenage girl in the family who actually TRIES to find out wtf is going on. The addition of the dog and baby make the stakes a bit higher as well.

PA2 really could have gone down the wrong path, but i'm surprised to say that they have taken the story into a pretty cool direction. There are still unanswered questions, and enough mystery to keep things fresh for a 3rd film, but the scares come second to story development this time around, which works in the sequels favor because it doesn't make it pointless.
If you didn't like part 1, there's nothing new for you here. If you liked PA1 and are curious for more, definitely give this a go. I hope this becomes a trilogy, i'm having a really great time with this series for now. Blair Witch 2, THIS AIN'T, the critics are rights, see it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let Me In [2010]
Starring: Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Directed by: Matt reeves

A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian.

I've seen the original Swedish version of this film that came out a couple years ago, and even though i didn't think it was the untouchable masterpiece everyone else thought it was, i still enjoyed it. It's a film i learned to appreciate more on repeat viewings and i can see why it has had such a strong following, but it didn't blow my mind.
When i heard it was being re-made, i was actually curious to see what else they could do with the story, maybe this time they'd make a version that captivated me a little more than the original.
Is the American version better than the Swedish one?......as an overall product, i'd say yes, but both films are pretty much similar for the most part, with the American version upping the anti a little in certain parts.

Both films share a similar cold atmospheric feel to them. I was glad they kept that moody tone for the remake. It's the main part of the original that i remember the most. The American version takes place in snow covered New Mexico, and it works surprisingly well. The feelings of isolation and dread in the locations the characters occupy reflect the two main leads and their personalities perfectly.

The casting is pretty much spot on, with the most obvious change being the vampire girl in the story [named Abby in the U.S version]. In the Swedish version, the character had a more interesting quality to her because she looked more androgynous, which added something different to her presence on screen. In the U.S. remake however, she very much looks like just a girl. That's not a bad thing though, because Chloe Moretz still brings her own unique quality to the character without looking like she's simply copying the actress from the original film. Chloe was actually really great in this. She played depressed well, she said a lot with her face without having to go over board with obvious emotion, similar to what the original actress did.
What i liked more this time around was how Abby was depicted in vampire form. In the original, her vampire appearance was a lot more subtle, in the remake, it's much more obvious. She has creepy wide icey blue eyes with veiny skin. Her vampire attacks are a lot more vicious than the original character as well. The feeling of danger was a lot more obvious in the remake, Abby was scary when she lost control.
The bullies in the U.S. version who victimize the young boy in the story came across a lot more dangerous as well. The violence and gore was increased, but not in an over the top sort of way. It was just enough to give the very sombre and quiet tone of the movie the punch it needed. That was lacking a little with the original in my opinion.

Hints at Abby's gender are only slightly referred to in the script, it definitely wasn't as much of an obvious hint as it was in the original [no scarred vagina scene this time around], but Abby's strange relationship between her male carer seemed to point to a more obvious hidden meaning than it did in the original, from what i can remember of it anyway.
Some scenes were executed better than others when you compare both films, for instance, the scene where Abby walks into her young friends house without an invitation was executed a bit more interestingly in the original, but, the scene where Abby's female victim is strapped to a hospital bed feeling the vampire change within her take over had A LOT more impact in the remake. In fact, it was probably my favourite scene.

What you'll get with 'Let Me In' is a VERY faithful remake of an already interesting and original foreign film. One isn't too much better than the other, but personally i preferred the more dangerous feeling remake to the more low key Swedish version. Don't get too excited, the remake isn't some pumped up super vampire movie, not at all, but it does feel like they pushed the vampire aspect of the story a little further by making Abby seem much more out of control and demonic on screen.
If i knew someone who had only seen ONE version of the film, that wouldn't bother me, because they're both good in their own ways. If i HAD to recommend one over the other though, i'd actually go for the U.S. version.
I know die hard fans of the original want this remake to be shit, but i'm sorry to say, it really isn't. Not only is it on par with the Swedish version, but in some ways, it's better.