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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Paranormal Activity 2

Can 'Paranormal Activity' be the new 'Saw'?

November 18, 2010 |  7:15 am

For a sequel that could easily have played like a cynical cash-in, "Paranormal Activity 2" drew millions of filmgoers and garnered some pretty solid reviews to boot. That challenge hurdled, Paramount has now set out to tackle the next one: turning the supernatural adventures of Katie et al. into an annual event.

The studio disclosed Wednesday that it was beginning work on "Paranormal Activity 3" for next year, with the idea to release the movie the week before Halloween, just as it did the second film. But can the "Paranormal" franchise be as durable as the "Saw" franchise created by Wan, Bousman and & Co.? [Warning, some spoilers below.]

There are some factors working against it. Bloodfests about a tortured man who becomes a torturer, as the "Saw" films are, have a history of becoming long-running franchises ("Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street," for instance). Movies about demonic possessions tend to be one-offs ("The Exorcist" or "The Omen," say).

And "Paranormal" is a lot more about the unseen than the explicit, which usually makes for better reviews (and maybe movies) but a trickier marketing campaign, since the trailer has to sell more on story than on image. (It's also an issue because "Saw" upped the level of explicitness to continue reeling in filmgoers, and to do that with "Paranormal" is to take away the creepy off-camera vibe that's made the movies distinct in the first place.)

But the "Saw"-"Paranormal" comparison is starting to seem a lot more plausible than it did even a month ago.

For one thing,  both franchises create a central mystery that can be teased out over multiple installments, "Lost"-style. (In "Saw's" case, the identity of Jigsaw and how he got to be that way; in the instance of "Paranormal," it's the demonic force pursuing the movies' victims.)

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Critical Mass: 'Paranormal Activity 2'

October 22, 2010 |  4:15 pm


One of the most effective tricks in the original "Paranormal Activity's" ghoulish arsenal was surprise. It was a low-budgeted -- some would say micro-budgeted -- shocker with no stars and approached familiar material in a new, unsettling way. The problem with surprise, however, is that you can only pull that off effectively once. (Unless, of course, you're a character in a horror movie, in which case your ability to be surprised by the expected is near-limitless).

"Paranormal Activity 2" has some things working against it that would be great strengths in most any other film -- more experienced actors, a bigger budget and sky-high anticipation. In other words, if "Paranormal Activity 2" doesn't cause critics' hair to turn to white, is it a worthy follow-up to the original?

Writing for The Times, reviewer Robert Abele doesn't see much new or original about this follow-up, but that's A-OK with him. "Call it a case of skilled sameness, of something fine-tuned rather than overplayed," he says. Much credit is given to director Tod Williams, who finds some creative ways to play with the tropes established by original director Oren Peli. "The new scenario's sextet of security-cam coverage — the front of the house, the pool, the kitchen, the living room, the stairs and finally (gulp) the baby's room — allows for cross-cutting tension... Which means, one might have to sit through plenty of successive shots of grainy wide-angle stillness, but when the jolting thud or a frisson of movement comes, it can only feel like a warning shot straight from hell."

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'Paranormal' sequel to receive sneak promotion like first film

September 16, 2010 |  8:57 pm

The ghosts are back. And so is the same “Paranormal Activity” promotion.
A year after the low-budget thriller by filmmaker Oren Peli became one of the most profitable releases in Hollywood history--thanks in large part to the buzz sparked in early sold-out screenings in a handful of cities--Paramount Pictures announced Thursday that it would mirror the first film’s sneak preview campaign for Oct. 22’s sequel, “Paranormal Activity 2.”
The studio said it would ship early copies of the film to the 20 cities in North America that express the most interest in seeing the movie through voting opening late Thursday night on the film’s website. Fans in those markets would then be able to see “Paranormal Activity 2” a day before the rest of the country, in special screenings just before midnight on Oct. 20. But there’s no guarantee that people voting to bring the sequel to their city will actually get into the preview, as seats should be in short supply.
 “The support of the online community was phenomenal on the first film,” Rob Moore, Paramount’s vice chairman, said in a statement. “We want to reward them for that support by offering them the chance to see it first.”

--John Horn

Photo of "Paranormal Activity 2": Paramount Pictures


Lionsgate moves 'Saw 3D' release date to avoid face off with 'Paranormal Activity 2' [UPDATED]

July 22, 2010 |  4:12 pm

Saw5 In the battle of the horror giants, Jigsaw has blinked: Lionsgate Thursday pushed back the release date of "Saw 3D" from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29.

The move avoids a looming standoff on Oct. 22, when Paramount was scheduled to open "Paranormal Activity 2" against the seventh entry in the annual "Saw" series.

All of the "Saw" movies since 2004's original have opened on the weekend before Halloween and Lionsgate had the same plan for this year's installment. However, in January Paramount made clear its intentions of supplanting "Saw" with its fresh horror series by dating "Paranormal Activity 2," a follow-up to last year surprise low-budget hit, on the same date, Oct. 22.

The date added insult to injury after Paramount attempted to recruit Keven Greutert, the director of "Saw VI," to helm "Paranormal Activity 2." However, production company Twisted Pictures ended up exercising its contractual option to have Greutert work on "Saw 3D" instead and Paramount ended up hiring indie director Tod Williams. [Updated: A previous version of this post stated that Lionsgate exercised the contractual option. It was Twisted Pictures.]

Last October, "Saw VI" opened on the same weekend that "Paranormal Activity" played in a nationwide release for the first time and grossed a disappointing $14.1 million, compared to $21.1 million for "Paranormal." Executives at Lionsgate apparently decided they would rather concede the Oct. 22 date than repeat the same experience.

In an interview Thursday with USA Today, "Saw" producer Oren Koules said "Saw 3D" be the last entry in the series, which has grossed more than $370 million since 2004. The first five entries were all successes, but last year's "Saw VI" was a surprise disappointment.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Joris Jarsky in "Saw V." Credit: Steve Wilkie / Lionsgate.

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'Paranormal Activity 2' trailer shows ... little activity

June 30, 2010 | 11:42 am

Paramount did a brilliant job with its "You Demanded It" campaign on "Paranormal Activity," creating demand as much as exposing it. The trailer for the sequel -- which is being directed by the young Kip Williams and is still set for release this Halloween -- brings us back to where we left off: namely, with Paramount reminding us that we demanded it.

There's a hint of some new information in the minute-plus clip -- which, in a bid to ensure that women keep coming, plays ahead of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" this weekend. The marketing material shows a baby crib, suggesting that possessed protagonist Katie is now a mother (though who she's with remains a mystery; boyfriend Micah is presumably dead after the first film). And it shows a dog barking. So there's that.

But it's mostly a reminder that there was a film about eight months ago, and that this will be set in a similar locale of a possessed home, shot with a similarly grainy feel. Apart from that, we'll have to wait for more trailers. Or, um, demand them.

-- Steven Zeitchik



The haunted history of 'Paranormal Activity'

Possible directors on 'Paranormal Activity 2'

Dimension looks to engage in its own 'Paranormal Activity'

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Dimension looks to engage in its own 'Paranormal Activity'

May 4, 2010 |  6:01 pm

EXCLUSIVE: As negotiations between The Weinstein Co. and Disney continue to wear on over the Miramax slate and library, the New York-based film company is forging ahead with the business of developing and making movies.

Dimension Films, the genre label run by Bob Weinstein, is making a deal to develop "The Mummy Archives," described as a more artful and modestly budgeted version of "The Mummy," the insanely lucrative Brendan Fraser franchise.

Monta The film will focus on several young people who are haunted by a mummy curse, with the action playing out very much in the unseen realm, as both the audience and the characters frequently experience the effects of the curse without seeing it explicitly.

The project comes with some appealing names: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, a young Spanish genre director who attracted quite a bit of heat a couple years back for his Spanish-language thriller "The King of the Hill" ("El Rey de la Montana," which the Weinstein Co. released in the U.S.), is in final negotiations to write the screenplay and direct the film. Douglas Wick, the veteran producer behind mega-hits such as "Gladiator," generated the idea and is in final negotiations to produce the film through his Red Wagon Entertainment banner.

In its 11 years of existence, Universal's "Mummy" franchise has generated more than $1.2 billion in global box office across three films. But those movies are CG-dependent and pricey to make, and in the wake of "Paranormal Activity," studios are looking for the big breakout that doesn't cost big money (including companies like Dimension that have always been budget-conscious). The budget for "Mummy Archives" is expected to be in the $5-million range, a number that allows for some lean and mean storytelling but isn't high enough to spook anyone.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: El Rey de la Montana. Credit: The Weinstein Company

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Possible directors of 'Paranormal Activity 2': Several young genre maestros ... and Brian De Palma

February 24, 2010 |  7:25 pm

When it comes to "Paranormal Activity," nothing should surprise us anymore. This was a movie that was shot for $10,000 and became a $100-million-plus box-office powerhouse. And it did all that with no stars and no brand pedigree -- just a brilliant "America demanded it" marketing campaign.

So the fact that a number of emerging genre directors are being considered to direct the second picture in the haunted-house franchise (tentatively titled "Paranormal Activity 2" but probably soon to be renamed)  makes perfect sense.

More eerie, though, is that the studio is now seriously considering a trio of more experienced directors. And one of them is a person who'll really get your weird-o-meter spinning: Brian De Palma.

Yes, that Brian De Palma.

The iconic auteur behind "Scarface" and "Dressed to Kill" -- as well as more mainstream films like "The Untouchables"' and "Mission: Impossible" -- would be a strange choice to say the least. No doubt he'll bring art-house credibility and visual flair. But De Palma is known for shoots that don't always go for the lowest common denominator at the multiplex, that aren't always cheap (though his last movie, the Iraq film "Redacted," was a lower-budgeted affair) and a shooting schedule that doesn't scream quick turnaround.

(And if you think De Palma would be a bizarre choice, consider this: At one point, Akiva Goldsman, a quintessential Hollywood insider, was also in the mix to direct the film. Goldsman is the Oscar-winning writer "A Beautiful Mind." He's also the writer and/or producer on a host of big-budget studio movies, including "The Da Vinci Code" and "I Am Legend." He won't direct the film in the end, but the fact that Paramount and the movie's producers were considering him suggests they want to give the film a different kind of gloss than the no-budget, unknown-driven first picture.)

Of course there's a logic to that sort of thinking: Oren Peli's original "Paranormal," which had few auterish touches, could, in the wrong hands, yield a low-end sequel (think "Blair Witch 2: Book of Secrets"). If nothing else, De Palma would elevate the level of filmmaking from what a less experienced director might do.

As for the young genre directors, they include a more Peli-ish group of freshmen and sophomores: Brad Anderson (director of a Woody Harrelson-Emily Mortimer thriller a few years back called "Transsiberian") and Greg McLean (a writer and director on an Australian horror movie called "Wolf Creek" -- another low-budget title that made a nice multiple, $16 million in U.S. box office).

All this is happening because "Saw VI" director Kevin Greutert won't direct the new "Paranormal." The horror filmmaker had been all set to sit in that tall chair until Lionsgate decided to exercise its option on him for the next "Saw" film (a direct competitor at the box office with "Paranormal"), pulling him off "Paranormal 2."

Whatever producers and Paramount executives decide to do, they'll probably want to do it quickly. The movie doesn't yet have a director or actors (they'd need at least one new one, given how the first ended), and, last we heard, the script was still being worked on. But it does have a release date -- exactly eight months from now, on Oct. 22, just before Halloween. This is where a little supernatural magic might come in handy.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Paranormal Activity. Credit: Paramount Pictures


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