It was recently reported that the recent trailer has been taken out of cinemas, apparently for being too scary. Now, to any fan of the previous film this is just going to make it sound completely enticing, but to someone who despises intense horror films, the idea of it being removed after supposedly terrifying audiences (and remember that this trailer debuted before Twilight Eclipse) makes the thought of going to see the movie all the more horrifying.
If we look at the trailer compared to other films of the same nature, we begin to see the similarities behind this type of handheld thriller film, and why are they so compelling to audiences. We can also spot why this was removed and why’s it’s so freaking horrible.
The Blair Witch Project and the recent Spanish horror movie Rec are probably the most successful films using this filming technique, and their trailers are no easier to watch than Paranormal Activity 2’s. All three have a dark presence about them, obviously because they’re all focused around demons of one kind or another, but the way the film creates this feeling of unease is through mostly the music and sound design.
Blair Witch offers the audience a blank screen with breathing to begin, Rec again offers intense breathing with police sirens but we know this is all diegetic on screen as we’re watching the action, rather than plain black. Paranormal Activity starts off blank but shortly after we’re thrown straight into the action with a loud bang as a body is thrown at the camera – The terrifying last scene to the first film. You can see why this breaks traditions and becomes a lot more uncomfortable to watch now from the very beginning of this trailer.
All the trailers use a blank screen and white titles to give context instead of using a swanky low toned voice over. This technique gives you a chance to listen as you read, rather than listen and watch what the voiceover is explaining – You’re attached to the screen and not able to take your eyes off in risk of missing something important. But this just means you’ll have to sit through the gruesome severity of the actions. The text also offers ‘true’ statements such as in Rec “Last year, Spanish emergency services recieved over 23 million calls, Blair Witch states “In October 1994, 3 student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville” producing more unease as the film becomes more and more real.
Paranormal Activity 2 however uses statements like “In 2009, you demanded it” with reactions of the audience rather than clips from the film. It’s almost like a communal feeling are terror when seeing how everyone in the audience respond the same, meaning the viewers now are also going to relate to their fear and react similarly.
They also all use quick, flickering editing which distracts your thoughts. As they’re all based around home movie making we start to believe what we’re watching is real because these flickers show imperfections which is how we recognise cinematic norms. Rather than having a clean-cut representation of a horror event like in most Hollywood produced films, these handheld camera features hold this sense of realism. Maybe this is why they’re all so popular because the audience believe what they’re watching offers a new dimension of terror.
Paranormal Activity 2 however uses these flickers to jolt your fear rather than as a way of insuring the audience understand it’s meant to look homemade. The flickers appear during cuts, when titles appear and throughout the scene rather than just as an added bonus to the editing. It confuses your vision with the effect that your mind begins to wonder what you’re just seen through the flickering.
All three trailers have a drawn out scene which are encouraged to make your anxiety levels go through the roof. They focus around the unknown and the blurred image to make you intrigued as to what you’re watching. They’re also very confusing as what you see doesn’t make sense. With Rec, we watch a small girl who seems to be a mutant on screen for a few seconds, Blair Witch contains the most famous shot of the girl crying and apologising, and Paranormal Activity 2 focuses on a disappearance of a dog and baby without showing what happened. Puzzling the audience, combined with the feeling of agitation means instantly the films become ridiculously scary but ever so captivating.
So Paranormal Activity 2 holds somewhat of a realistic quality, a confusing edge and breaks traditions from Hollywood. This is why it was taken out of cinemas, because we’re not used to the ways in which it is advertising the film. And because Katie is one of the creepiest characters ever created!
The Blair Witch Project trailer (part 1)
Paranormal Activity 2 trailer