Found footage movies rarely successfully establish themselves as franchises. There may be good intentions in trying to expand on the set up created in the first installment but usually the original effect established in the always superior first movie isn’t successfully recreated leaving an underwhelming experience. I’ve never seen the sequel to the very well crafted Blair Witch Project, but if critics are anything to go by, then apparently it’s incredibly bad. Rec 2 was very well received, but I felt underwhelmed by the way the movie was expanded, in some way it seemed to be jumping on the demon band wagon due to the success of Paranormal Activity. So whilst I was excited to see this movie, I was remaining open, prepared to be disappointed but remaining optimistic for the direction that the movie was going to take. And thankfully, I believe it has worked, adding more plot and character along with the thrills, which are a mixed bag themselves but the atmosphere is certainly still in place.
I don’t want to give too many plot details away, as a lot of what is good about this movie is discovering the twists and background information behind the characters. If you’d prefer not to know anything about the plot details of this movie, I’ll restrict them to the just this paragraph so skip this if you want to remain un-informed. I don’t think it’d be giving away too much to say that this time the action follows Katie’s (girl from the first one, in case you didn’t know) sister Kristi, as her family (husband, step-daughter, new-born son, a good old German Alsatian) move in to a new home. Following what they believe was a break-in, Kristi’s husband Daniel installs a CCTV system to keep an eye on the home. Cue cutting between home video and the CCTV set up to catch the said paranormal activity. Weird happenings continue and get considerably worse, creating fear amongst the family as Kristi believes it is something returned from her childhood that both her and Katie experienced (who pops up now again, as the action takes place before and after the events of the first movie). As the strange happenings persist, elements are revealed that bring to light motives and reveals more mysteries surrounding Katie and Kristi’s past.
In terms of development of the story, it does exactly what a sequel should do. It expands the story, crafting character development and expanding from the set up established by the first movie. It retains the home video set up yet expanding it with the use of CCTV footage, cutting back and forth to the static set ups did start getting repetitive when nothing was really happening (a light goes out in the pool… oooooooooooo!). The thrills range from jump in your seat moments to quite funny, probably unintentionally (this was the same with the first one), but when they make you jump, they certainly effect you, the most effective probably taking place in the daytime. The big payoff isn’t even in the climax, it uses the handheld camera very effectively, frantically moving which is what we didn’t really have with the first movie , and using the camera’s night vision setting for optimum tension.The long, lingering static CCTV shots un-nerve you as well, as your eyes are constantly looking all over the frame trying to see where something will either jump out from or if there are any secrets or ominous signs hidden within the shot. But along with the scares, there are some genuinely funny moments set within the very well established family scenario. It certainly creates a false sense of security and you really do care for the family, helped by the very authentic performances all round, never feeling forced or staged. The only time when the acting seems unnatural is during possessed scenes, which can be hard for some viewers to take seriously. It’s a daft scenario all this demon possession business, but the atmosphere is certainly freaky enough and it’s well maintained even when some things may look a bit daft (baby being dragged in cot being exhibit A). Plus, the marketing campagin, however effective, is very mislading and a lot of what was featured in the trailers isn’t actually feautred in the movie, which may have been a way of the filmmakers trying to say that you should expect the unexpected, but just comes across as misleading.
The main problem with this movie is in its climax. The big payoff comes before the actually ending, and it really does feel like it has run out of steam by the time it gets to this point. It isn’t very impactful, and while certainly open-ended, it may have created a problem for itself in what the next movie will develop in to, there certainly is potential for it to be good, but the filmmakers may have short-handed themselves into how well it can be developed. There are some interesting questions that have been raised in this movie, questions that will hopefully be handled well, as this sequel does prove that the filmmakers, taken over from original writer/director Oren Peli, do know what they’re doing, and perhaps they ended how they ended it with a scenario in mind for the next one. That will remain to be seen, but while the ending is very underwhelming, I am excited to see where it goes. It is a franchise that will live or die on the next installment, the pressure’s on!