Movie Reviews: “Hereafter” and “Paranormal Activity 2”

It’s October, the most macabre month of the year, and also the one that sees the release of an inordinate number of horror/supernatural-themed flicks. This week, the two biggest releases are a pair of movies that take very different views of what lies on “the other side”, though neither generates much enthusiasm.

“Hereafter”, Clint Eastwood’s globetrotting rumination on death and the way it affects the living, interweaves the stories of three people who have each been affected by death, each in a different way.

George (Matt Damon), is a San Francisco man with the ability to communicate with the dead, a dubious gift that prevents him from having normal relationships. French journalist Marie (Cecile de France) has a near-death experience during a tsunami while in Indonesia, abandons her life in order to find the answers behind what she endured. Placed into foster care after the death of his twin brother, London schoolboy Marcus (Frankie McLaren) is consumed by grief and a degree of identity loss, and begins seeking answers from various sham psychics.

After an effects heavy sequence involving the aforementioned tsunami, the movie quickly settles into a slower, more contemplative mood. Each of the actors delivers a strong, nuanced performance, especially an understated Damon, but ultimately the movie is a bit too languid, too dependent on coincidence crudely disguised as providence, and a bit too corny for its own good.

“Paranormal Activity 2” aims for something more visceral and terrifying, but winds up being just as dull. The sequel to the 2009 sleeper hit is designed to dovetail with its predecessor by focusing on Christina, the sister of Katie (Katie Featherston), the ill-fated girlfriend of the first movie. Christina lives with her husand John, stepdaughter Ali, nanny Martine, and dog Abby. A year after the birth of her son Hunter, strange things start happening in and around the house.

While the first movie had a certain novelty value and relentless tension, “PA2” takes forever to get going and when it finally does, it feels overly familiar. Aside from one good “gotcha” moment about an hour in, there’s little to match the harrowing scenes from the original. What we do get is a tired retread of what we already saw last year.

With only “Saw 3D” left on the horizon, it’s shaping up to be a dull October in terms of film.


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