Thursday, July 12, 2012

In short: Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night (2010)

Original title: Paranomaru akutibiti: Dai-2-sho - Tokyo Night

Haruka (Noriko Aoyama) returns from a US vacation with both of her legs broken in a car accident, and the dubious prospect of being taken care of in the family home by her college-aged brother Koichi (Aoi Nakamura) for the next six months or so; their mother is dead, and their father spends most of his time jetting around the world for work. At least the siblings actually like each other, so apart from some teasing and the fact she's rolling around in a wheelchair, Haruka could have drawn a worse lot.

Alas, things don't stay that peaceful. One morning Haruka is confused that her wheelchair seems to have moved over night, but soon, she's treated to a grab bag of supernatural occurrences you may remember from the US Paranormal Activity movies - loud noises, slamming doors, the works. Of course, all of it becomes increasingly more frightening and threatening with each night, as Koichi records the proceedings with his trusty video camera.

Relatively early on, the siblings decide to call in a priest to purify their home of evil influences, but afterwards, the situation only deteriorates, until it all culminates in a first for a Paranormal Activity movie - an actual climax.

I think I must have mentioned my loathing for the Paranormal Activity movies a few dozen times by now, yet when I got the opportunity to watch the series' Japanese spin-off directed by Toshikazu Nagae, my masochist self could not let it pass by.

As it turns out, Tokyo Nights is the only Paranormal Activity movie I actually enjoyed; that's not how masochism is supposed to work, I think. Now, Tokyo Nights is not a great overlooked gem of the POV horror sub-genre, but unlike its US Paranormal Activity brethren, it's at least a decent film that avoids most of their pitfalls. There are also only about half as many plot holes, if you keep count.

Tokyo Night's superiority shows itself early on with Nagae's decision to let things begin to happen early on instead trying to pummel the audience into submission through sheer boredom; going with the grand tradition of the PA series does of course still mean that the paranormal activity on show for most parts of the movie is rather boring. Sure, there's an archetypal fright connected with scenes of people threatened by invisible forces in their beds, but broken glass and banging noises only get me so far when I'm witnessing them, because I'm not in those beds, hearing those noises. But hey, at least Nagae is better at pacing his fright scenes than the Americans, and he also attempts to give his film an actual pay-off that may or may not work for any given viewer depending on how funny or creepy she finds jerky movements.

Speaking of jerks, there's also a clear improvement in characterisation compared to the American films in that Tokyo Nights creates two not exactly deep yet vaguely likeable characters you don't necessarily want to see die or become possessed; I think that's called "not being Micah or how these assholes in the second film were called". Turns out that not wanting the main characters to die a painful and slow death makes a horror movie more suspenseful. Who'd have thunk?

So yes, Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night is a film which mainly recommends itself by being produced with a certain degree of care and competence; for a Paranormal Activity movie that's more than I ever dared dream of.


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