New haunts

Look out for more ghostly in­va­sions in Para­nor­malAc­tiv­ity2.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By JOHN HORN

THROUGH­OUT the mak­ing of Para­mount Pic­tures’ Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity 2, an un­set­tling specter floated over the pro­duc­tion.

The ap­pari­tion had noth­ing to do with the ear­lier haunted house block­buster, a mi­crobud­get thriller that ex­ploded into a pop­cul­ture sen­sa­tion and grossed more than US$107mil (RM342mil) in do­mes­tic the­atres a year ago, be­com­ing one of the most profitable re­leases in show busi­ness his­tory.

In­stead, the se­quel/pre­quel was haunted by mem­o­ries of Hollywood’s last ef­fort to clone a sim­i­lar scary story: Ar­ti­san’s Book Of Shad­ows: Blair Witch 2, which took in less than 20% of the pre­ced­ing film’s rev­enues and was so de­ci­sively de­spised by crit­ics and au­di­ences that it tainted 1999’s orig­i­nal Blair Witch Project by as­so­ci­a­tion.

“We were wor­ried more than any­thing else that the new movie wouldn’t work,” says Oren Peli, the for­mer video game de­signer who wrote, di­rected and edited the first Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity and served as a pro­ducer on the update. “And I’m sure there are a lot of peo­ple who will want to make sure that it’s not Blair Witch 2.”

Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity 2 plays very much like the orig­i­nal block­buster, shar­ing its look and in­ter­nal logic. Screen­writer Michael R. Perry and di­rec­tor Kip Wil­liams set the new film in the days just pre­ced­ing, and then the hours over­lap­ping with, the ghostly in­va­sion of Katie (Katie Feather­son) and Micah’s (Micah Sloat) nearby dwelling in Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity.

The fol­low-up un­folds in the Carls­bad res­i­dence of Kristie and Daniel Rey, Katie’s sis­ter and brother-in-law. The cou­ple has just

In pans fly, doors slam and other weird things hap­pen in the house of Daniel and Kristie Rey. wel­comed new­born son Hunter, but he’s far from the only new ar­rival in the house.

As se­cu­rity cam­eras doc­u­ment, their Ger­man shep­herd, phan­tom-savvy teenage daugh­ter and in­can­ta­tion-chant­ing nanny are no match for what­ever is caus­ing pans to fly off a rack, doors to slam with­out warn­ing, and one per­son to exit a room rather swiftly.

That mys­te­ri­ous burned pho­to­graph found in the at­tic in the orig­i­nal film? Kristie and Daniel might have some­thing to do with it.

Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity 2 was made for a com­par­a­tive for­tune, some US$3mil (RM9.6mil) ver­sus the first film’s ini­tial US$15,000 (RM48,000) bud­get, largely be­cause Para­mount is obliged to use union labour in all phases of pro­duc­tion.

pro­duc­ers Oren Peli (left) and Ja­son Blum.

But to pre­serve the first film’s dis­cov­ered­footage feel, the movie was cast with un­knowns (the stu­dio is not even re­leas­ing the ac­tors’ names yet) and shot in the same shaky, home-movie style that was cen­tral to the orig­i­nal thriller.

Peli, who is fin­ish­ing work on the sci-fi thriller Area 51, at first re­sisted mak­ing a fol­low-up, but Para­mount vice chair­man Rob Moore, pro­duc­tion head Adam Good­man and ex­ec­u­tive Ashley Brucks all be­lieved there was a way to catch light­ning in a bot­tle twice.

Any num­ber of pos­si­ble se­quel ideas were re­jected be­cause they dis­re­garded the first film’s DNA.

“A lot of the pitches didn’t re­late to the first movie – it was just a dif­fer­ent kind of scary story, two other peo­ple in a house,” says pro­ducer Ja­son Blum, who su­per­vised the movie’s devel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion with part­ner Steven Schneider and Peli.

“We tried to keep it in the same lan­guage,” Blum says. “There was a de­sire on our part and the part of Adam and Ashley to not spend a lot of money on cast­ing recog­nis­able peo­ple and re­main true to the spirit of the orig­i­nal film.”

But the two films also are in­tractably dif­fer­ent, ul­ti­mately shap­ing how the new movie is mar­keted.

Given its home­made his­tory, Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity was about as or­ganic as ap­ples at a farm­ers’ mar­ket. The film was dis­cov­ered by au­di­ences as much as Para­mount sold it to them – the re­lease was jump-started by screen­ings at col­lege cam­puses, and Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity’s long lines were as in­flu­en­tial in pro­mot­ing the film as paid advertisement.

The new movie is a soup-to-nuts stu­dio con­struc­tion, not an in­de­pen­dent film that Para­mount acquired, and au­di­ences no longer can un­earth the movie on their own. — Los An­ge­les Times/McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices n Para­nor­malAc­tiv­ity2 opens in Malaysian cine­mas on Jan 6, 2011.

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