Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

When you watch a sequel immediately after viewing its original for the first time, you run the risk of altering the typical experience to the detriment of the new movie’s effectiveness. Because I saw Paranormal Activity only a few days ago, I was almost too well prepared for Paranormal Activity 2. Some of the gimmicks and scares were therefore a little less terrifying than they might have been had the first film’s plot points and devices been less fresh in my mind. Nevertheless, while the sequel doesn’t dramatically alter (or improve) PA‘s formula, the IMAX screening was definitely worth my nineteen bucks. I was just as scared as I was the first time around, and just as suspicious of creaks and groans in my apartment afterward. Thankfully I brought along a few friends to keep me safe.

Special thanks to fellow snack pirates, Bob and Natalie! I promised not to tell, but Bob peed himself in the theater.

The story: As one of the first of many title cards tells us, our story takes place prior to the events of Paranormal Activity. We’re brought into the home of the sister of the first film’s star, Katie. Katie’s sister, Kristi – mentioned but unseen in the original – is returning from the hospital with her husband and new baby boy, Hunter. This time the first person perspective is initially the result of Kristi’s stepdaughter recording the arrival of her half-brother, although the justifications for someone constantly taping mundane events becomes muddier as the movie progresses. A year or so later, the family’s home is the scene of an apparent vandalism and burglary, though fans of the first movie are sure to speculate from the lack of anything of value being stolen that something other than a robbery has taken place.

Kristi’s husband, Dan, decides to install security cameras all over the house, more or less plausibly creating the paranormal police state necessary to capture the creepy goings-on that will follow. Before long, strange banging noises are heard and things start moving around of their own accord. Kristi sees echoes of her childhood terrors in the spooky phenomena, while Dan remains skeptically dismissive, at least at first. But no amount of incredulity will allow him or the rest of the family to ignore the chilling events about to unfold.

Hope you brought your keys...

Biggest letdown: Where the first film made its bones on subtle off-screen happenings, this one was a tad too overt for my taste. Obviously a sequel needs to be bigger and louder than its predecessor, but PA2 goes too far, too fast. The baby is shown flying around his crib in the first half hour, for crap’s sake.

I admittedly had the same beef with Paranormal Activity but please, if this franchise makes it to round three, enough with the bass rumble accompanying every supernatural manifestation. First of all, it’s overused almost to the point of comedy. And since it happens a few seconds before literally every instance of ghostly activity, it gives the audience a heads up that scary things are about to go down. It’s relatively unsettling at first, but after a while you start to listen for it and it tends to ruin any element of surprise. I would have much preferred no sound cues at all, which would keep the audience on edge throughout the movie, even in moments when the evil presence wasn’t about to make an appearance.

I also take issue with casting known actors for some of the roles. Part of the charm of the first movie was that I had never seen any of those people before. In the sequel, though the IMDB page remains mum on the names of the cast, did they really think I (or anyone who had seen 24, Jericho or Sons of Anarchy) wouldn’t recognize the lovely and talented Sprague Grayden? Not that anyone was walking into the theater expecting a documentary, but I would have thought the producers and casting directors would want to retain the illusion of authenticity as much as possible. It’s hard to do that when one of the people whose families needed to be thanked in the main credits just guest starred in an episode of House.

Only a truly evil ghost leaves the bathroom door open while making number two.

Why you should watch: Just like with the original, I defy you to watch (preferably alone, preferably in the dark) and not jump out of your seat at least a few times. Granted, this is a fairly transparent (and successful) attempt to cash in on the things that made the first so scary. But even for someone like me who had just seen the original, the novelty hasn’t yet worn off.

Memorable Moment: Every time the movie finds some excuse to leave an already shaken Kristi in the house alone, the audience held its collective breath. One particularly juicy instance afforded Kristi a quiet opportunity to make herself a nice cup of tea. DEMONS DO NOT LIKE TEA.

Choice quote: “We can’t let it affect us that much. If we do that, the terrorists win.”

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4 Responses to “Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)”

  1. glad to know demons don’t like tea. no more solo tea time for me. i have been in danger for many years without even knowing it. thank you for saving me from the wild tea demons.

  2. crap…i just put the kettle on the stove. i’m screwed!

  3. […] Paranormal Activity 2 – Once more, with family. […]

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