I’ve spent a lot of time this month talking about the invasion of Japanese ghost movies in the 1990s and 2000s. Though most of these led to underwhelming U.S. remakes, The Ring being the exception, and at the time the future of American horror films looked bleak. Then, in 2009 Paranormal Activity introduced the world to a new breed of horror film. Found footage had already been popularized by films like The Blair Witch Project, but never had the fear felt this close to home. I’m talking about the fear of an unknown entity in the very place we believe to be safe, at home. Whether or not its ghosts, we’ve all felt this uncertainty in the late hours of the night. In fact, this fear is so universal Paranormal Activity received the same treatment as so many of the Japanese ghost stories proceeding it. A remake.
Perhaps remake isn’t the right word. Technically, Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night is a sequel to the original film. Like how the 1979 Italian film Zombi 2 is supposed to be a sequel to George A. Romero’s 1978 American horror classic Dawn of the Dead. I recognize Tokyo Night is a different story than its predecessor and does have connecting elements, yet I see it as a remake. Or maybe this is because every Paranormal Activity movie feels the same. Like McDonalds, it tastes the same no matter where you are. And even though you know it’s bad for you, sometimes it really hits the spot.
Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night begins with a young woman, Haruka Yamano (Noriko Aoyama) returning from the U.S. back to Tokyo after breaking her legs in a car accident. Where did this incident occur? Why San Diego of course. This is the same location of the original film. There’s also some explanation about the possessed girl, Katie, from the original film being in the same accident. So I guess Katie gave her a demon? Which doesn’t make sense considering there were future U.S. sequels with Katie. Anyways, Back in Tokyo, Haruka goes to live with her tech savvy 19-year-old brother Koichi (Aoi Nakamura) and their father. Though shortly after Haruka’s return, Mr. Dad leaves for a business trip, leaving the siblings with the whole house to themselves… Or are there others?
It’s not a bad setup. The moment we see Haruka in a wheelchair, I knew there was promise in delivering a great scare later. Was a ghost going to operate her wheelchair? Was she going to walk around late at night, even with broken legs? The answer is yes and yes. It’s awesome. The problem is how far the gaps are inbetween moments of the character’s talking and actual paranormal activity. Most of the film is the characters cooking and eating meals and then having fairly typical conversations. It’s weird. I guess Koichi only felt like filming his life when it was time to chow down?
Another problem is the camera. This has always been a struggle for found footage movies. “Why are they still filming?” Being the most common complaint. What’s odd about PA2:TN is Koichi seems to film everything before anything remotely interesting happens. How convenient. If the film wanted to hook me in they would immediately open with a spooky moment being caught on film. I don’t buy this guy filming everything just because his sister is home. The original could get away with these things because it was the first of its kind. But you have to change how events unfold and how characters react with every passing film. This has also been the problem with a majority of the U.S. Paranormal Activity sequels. Show me some more spooky ghosts. I mean this is Japan, this where spooky ghosts were invented.
Tokyo Night is by no means bad, it has its scares. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a great sequence where Haruka walks around in the middle of the night on broken legs. So creepy. But everything else felt safe and predictable. I’d like to see where I would rank this film if I watched it alongside every other Paranormal Activity in one go. Though this would require a huge waste of time and frankly, I’ve got better things to do. Like I think I heard a bump last night. I better setup a camera. It could be ghosts… Or maybe just raccoons.