Thursday, November 30, 2023

In short: Paranormal Surveillance Camera 2 (2012)

Narratively and aesthetically, this second entry into the long-running Paranormal Surveillance Camera POV horror series from Japan is quite a step up from the first one. There is of course still an element of that first movie’s supernatural “Where’s Waldo” game involved – I haven’t encountered a film from Japan in this cheap and cheerful style that doesn’t want us to watch something supposedly creepy again in replay – but new director Satoshi Ishii drags this thing as close to an actual narrative as I expect to get from films like it.

So now, the surveillance camera footage is only the first step in short investigations that always threaten to get heated enough for a twist or an actual plot development but typically peter out with the paranormal investigators shrugging their shoulders and going “I dunno”. In about half of the tales, the film manages an interesting feat, however, in that it seems to tell us fragments of very traditional urban legends we can try to, are even supposed to, puzzle out on our own. It’s a curious sideways approach to narrative, where one or two pieces of a puzzle are supposed to suggest the other ninety or so, or at least creep an audience out with whatever they think might be going on.

It’s very much a parallel idea to never showing the monster. The tale we come up with ourselves will, after all, be more frightening than the one the film could actually afford to tell. Which is at least the theory Ishii seems to be operating from.

In the film’s more involved tales – where, for example, a film of the final breaths of an old man leads to one sad and one creepy revelation – this actually works, at least for me; in its lesser ones, there’s at least the charm of its earnestly dramatic presentation of the most minor “paranormal” events.

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