Movie Review: The Girl with All the Gifts
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Let me begin by saying that I liked PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, or at the very least, appreciated it. I saw it almost a full year before it hit theaters and subsequently became a sensation, and I was struck by Oren Peli's effective minimalist approach. The film really has no replay value, not for me, but the initial viewing gave me a dose of subtle heebie jeebies. Understanding the Hollywood game, I wasn't appalled by the notion of a PARANORMAL sequel; I was intrigued. Let's see what the studio that bought the original film has up its sleeve when it comes to the "found footage" game...
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 has a moderately clever notion, to be a prequel as opposed to a standard sequel. It introduces us to Kate's sister, Kristi (Sprague Grayden), who, like Kate, recalls being privy to some supernatural shenanigans in her childhood. (You'll recall that in the first film, it's not the house that's haunted, but Kate herself.) She and her husband Daniel (Brian Boland) have just welcomed their first son, Hunter, into the world. Eventually, stuff begins going bump in the night, and it ultimately becomes apparent that an otherworldly presence has its sights set on the baby... It's just going to go about things in a really repetitive, round-about way.
The film may sound good for some old spooky house-style fun, but it's seriously not. A big problem comes with our lead characters and, concurrently, with our performers. While Kate and Micah's performances in the first film weren't going to fool anyone into thinking they were watching a documentary, the actors in the sequel are never for a second believable. Brian Boland in particular seems to be trying too hard to give a naturalistic performance, which just comes off as forced and the same can be said of young actress Molly Ephraim. Mind you I'm not saying they're bad; they just never sell their portrayals, and the movie's veneer of "reality" is stripped away very early on.
What IS bad is the movie's dreadful pacing. People who complain that nothing happens in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT ought to get a load of this flick, which for at least an hour literally documents the family just puttering around their house, investigating the pool, fooling around with cameras, and rocking the baby to sleep. There's a difference between a slow burn and boring your audience to sleep, something PA 1 helmer Oren Peli understands and PA 2 director Tod Williams and his screenwriters do not. I can't even claim the movie gets exciting once things kick into gear, because that would be a lie; mostly what's offered is a handful of acceptable jump-scares and "ohh the door is opening by itself!" moments. And because the characters are hardly interesting, there's nothing invested other than a very mild curiosity as to what inanimate object might spring to life next.
It's not the end of the world that this movie doesn't work. (Certainly not for Paramount, which still made a mint off of PA 2's box office receipts alone.) When it was over, I was very much at piece with stopping the DVD and immediately forgetting about the experience. Life's too short and full of real mystery to worry myself with something as trivial as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2.
As far as supplements go, you get a teaser trailer and "found footage" - which is really just one deleted sequence involving a baby on the loose. Nothing exciting.