Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Film #3: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Two years ago when the first Paranormal Activity came out and had everyone shitting their pants, I saw it and did a webcam review for the now-defunct Rotten Tomatoes Show. I didn’t bother to keep up with the series as the sequels rolled off the line, but since PA2 was on Netflix, I decided to hit it up, remembering the fond feeling I felt toward the original. Paranormal Activity 2 is a “parallel prequel” to the first, taking place before and a little bit after its predecessor. Instead of following a couple, the sequel gives us a full-fledged family – newborn baby, dog and all. Adding to the camcorder shots is footage from security cameras that the Rey family installs after they come home to find their house in disarray (but with nothing stolen). Over the next couple of weeks, wife Kristi and daughter Ali start to suspect a supernatural presence in the house, though father Dan remains obstinate.

I’ve always loved horror movies because being scared is so much fun. For most horror movies, however, you don’t necessarily have to be scared when it’s over, because you can think about it logically and say “this simply doesn’t happen in the real world.” The Paranormal Activity series and all the other mockumentary-esque horror movies that started with The Blair Witch Project, however, take away that safety net by making their films as close to real-life as possible. Using camcorder footage and thanking the “family of the deceased” in an opening title card goes toward convincing the audience that yes, this actually really did happen, not in some fake movie studio world but in the real one that you and I inhabit. Instead of garish vampires or monsters, the Paranormal Activity movies create fear out of the everyday occurrence – the sound you might have heard coming from the basement, or the door that you swore you left open but you’ve turned around to find closed. Coupled with the classical conditioning of repeated camera shots, it’s tricks like these that made the first movie such a phenomenal success.

Unfortunately, the sequel doesn’t add anything of value. I had high hopes, what with the increased cast of characters and the addition of security camera footage, but this film disappointed by relying too heavily on tricks from the first film without any improvements. The entire first half fails to get any good scares, because the things that happen are simply too mundane to be effective. Thumps are heard, lights go off, the baby and the dog seem to detect some invisible presence – it’s a whole heap of things that we’ve seen countless times before, and it just doesn’t work anymore. The second half of the movie starts to pick things up, and it’s nice to have the daughter there as an audience surrogate since the wife (the daughter’s step-mother) falls into hysterics early on and the father is annoyingly stubborn about it all. But then there’s a lackluster climax, and an ending that somehow manages to simultaneously be entirely dependent on the first film and entirely reliant on a future sequel to be satisfying at all. I’ve heard that the third film is a return to quality, which I can only hope for, since this movie simply wasn’t worth the 100 minutes I spent on it.

Offering no improvements on the flawed but novel original, Paranormal Activity 2 is a lackluster and ultimately disappointing horror film.

Final rating: 5/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • I just about lost it when Dan said he was going to “release the Kraken”.
  • Love seeing douche bag Micah from the original, back in all his glorious douche bag action.
  • Props to the dog trainer and the baby actors. Lots of good stuff from both of them.
  • Anyone else irritated at how long it took the family to consult their security cam footage? There are few things I can stand less than unintelligent characters in films.
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One response

  1. Pingback: Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) « The Analytic Critic

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