More than any other genre, horror films depend a lot on mood and setting, and I’m not talking about the film’s mood and setting, I’m referring to the mood and setting of the viewer. Horror films are the hardest to review, too, because there are so many variables to the horror-movie going experience — no other genre depends as much on a good audience. Or about expectations. Or about how you’re feeling in a given day. Horror movies require a huge suspension of disbelief, and if you’re not feeling it, you can’t commit. If some jackass sitting next to you starts rustling his M&Ms or there’s a couple finger-banging behind you, it’ll take you right out of the experience. All of which is why movies like Drag Me to Hell, The Blair Witch Project or 1408 have so many detractors — if you went into any of the three with a bad audience, you might not have care for them. The collective spirit of a theater really works to a horror film’s advantage or disadvantage — I remember actually feeling frustrated with the detractors to my 1408 review — I loved that movie, and it scared the bejesus out of me. But I went to a midnight screening on very little sleep the night before, so I was hypersensitive to it. And the audience I was with (as are most midnight audiences) was completely committed. The same movie on a Saturday afternoon with some obnoxious teenagers might have come off as cheesy or empty.
Anyway, the point is: Reaction was across the board on last year’s huge low-budget hit, Paranormal Activity, too. If you went in expecting the most terrifying movie of your life (thanks, hype, for ruining another movie) and you braced yourself internally, Paranormal Activity might have been either a laugher or completely dull. I went in with low expectations — I came out with urine-soaked pants. I actually found myself looking around the theater at other audience members occasionally, just to take me out of the moment for a few seconds. I needed a break from the paranormal terror.
But, of course, a $100 million horror movie is still a fairly rare thing (given their low budgets, a $50 million box-office gross is considered a big enough hit to warrant a sequel). So, of course, a second Paranormal Activity is being put into the works. In fact, it’s being fast-tracked for an October 22nd release, right up against the next Saw flick (you’ll recall that Activity put a big dent in the Saw franchise last year). And what better way to go head-to-head with the most lucrative horror-movie franchise of all time than to hire away the Saw VI director to make the Paranormal sequel? Kevin Greutert will be joining “The Dead Zone” writer, Michael R. Perry, to co-write and co-direct Paranormal Activity 2.
And of course it will suck, not just because it’s being slapped together in six months. But because it’s also the nature of supernatural sequels. In fact, name one horror movie sequel that relies on atmospherics that had a successful sequel? I’m not talking about Freddy or Jason slasher pics, which were never scary to begin with. I’m talking about films that haunt you. They all fail on their second attempts. Blair Witch, Poltergeist, The Ring, The Grudge, etc. etc. Supernatural movies just do not work as sequels. Don’t expect anything different from Paranormal Activity 2.