Paranormal Activity 2
October 22, 2010
On the Big Board
||This was okay, but there was less punch because it was more of the same from the first movie. The explosive jolt an hour in was great though.
When the dust settled on the 2009 Halloween movie season, Paranormal Activity, a shoestring-budget, home camera-wielding little horror opus, had grossed an incredible $107 million. This was a film that was shot in 2007, had premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival all the way back in January 2008, and was on the radar of few by summer's end. But then came an unprecedented level of underground Internet buzz and hype, and after a rapid-fire screen count expansion, the grosses kept reeling in, and the rest was history.
Impressive, wasn't it? Any other year, yes. But by the time Paranormal Activity came roaring into town, most box office analysts had been thoroughly desensitized by a year that had heaved one surprise mega-hit after the next, from the inexplicably beloved follies of Paul Blart in January, to the Hangover's summer roar, and all the way down into The Blind Side's winter-time blitz. Still, mega-blockbusters on shoestring budgets being what they are, especially in the horror genre, a sequel was inevitable. And as every horror fan knows, if you don't make part two right off the bat, you may already be too late.
In general, it's real tricky making a sequel to a film like Paranormal Activity - a shaky-cam low-budgeter ($15,000!) almost defined by its spontaneity and lack of major studio involvement. Those elements could not possibly be replicated in the second go-around. In fact, history really seems to be repeating itself here: it was just ten years ago that Artisan Entertainment (remember them?), tasked with following up their enormous micro-budget summer hit The Blair Witch Project, had come up with a sequel that was frankly an average, mainstream piece of horror entertainment - not a totally bad film, but almost by definition, far removed from what made the first Blair Witch unique. Blair Witch 2 opened on the weekend before Halloween and ended up with a mere $26 million total, almost comically reversed from the first film's $140 million. As the budget went up, down came the grosses.
Avoiding that fate is the challenge that Paranormal Activity 2's makers now face, and it's a significant one. Horror fans, and moviegoers in general, are fickle, especially if they're asked to repeat a searing box office performance like that of the first P.A. Looking at the bigger picture, almost every first-time horror sequel released during the 2000s finished with a gross noticeably smaller than that of its predecessor, and I would assume Paramount Pictures knows the same will almost certainly be true of this one. But that doesn't mean you can't make a modest horror hit.
The behind-the-scenes talent is already lined up: Oren Peli, the first film's director, will produce, as will Hollywood veteran Akiva Goldsman. The film has acquired a screenwriter (Michael R. Perry, who's scribbed on shows like Millennium, The Dead Zone, and American Gothic) and a director, Kip Williams - an odd choice, considering his previous dabbling in family dysfunction dramas The Adventures of Sebastian Cole and The Door in the Floor. Saw VI's director, Kevin Greutert, had been lined up to helm, but Lionsgate pulled him out and heaved upon him a different directorial task: Saw VII.
There's an interesting back-and-forth between these two franchises, and indeed one of Paranormal Activity's accomplishments may have been neutering the Saw series somewhat - Saw VI, released during the high point of Paranormal Activity's box office firestorm, opened with a mere $14 million and finished with just $27 million, the lowest grossing entry in the series by a sizeable margin. Saw VII is already filming and scheduled for October 22nd, the same date that P.A. 2's makers have in mind for their film. Yes, this new Saw has the advantage of 3D, but one of these two will have to budge on their release date, and I sure ain't betting against Paranormal Activity. (Michael Lynderey/BOP)