REVIEWS: “Paranormal Activity 2″
SHULL: “Paranormal Activity 2″ falls short of expectation
Any film, like the original “Paranormal Activity,” that is made on a shoestring budget and goes on to gross 107.9 million domestically* will inevitably have at least one sequel. I get it, frankly the studio and distributors would be stupid not to. Sometimes the sequels live up to the original. Occasionally they surpass it in vision, quality and scope and sometimes they are phoned in to cash in on the momentum of the original. Unfortunately “Paranormal Activity 2″ is the latter.
Like the original, this film is presented only through “found video footage” that the Rey Family made themselves. This is inter-cut with footage from the family’s surveillance system that covers most of the home. The footage begins with the Rey Family bringing their newborn son, Hunter, home for the first time. Instantly from there, we forward to one year later with the family: Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden), her husband Daniel (Brian Boland) and Daniel’s 14 year-old daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) filming an afternoon with Hunter in and around the family pool. Also present are Katie and Micah Sloat from the first movie. Katie is Kristi’s sister and we quickly realize this movie takes place before the Sloats have begun having trouble at their home.
From here on we start ticking through the days and nights at the Rey home. For the first 30 minutes of the film, multiple days pass without anything noteworthy happening at all. When we finally do get a taste of the supernatural it fails miserably. A door slamming, a child’s toy moving across the floor on its own and poor Hunter being clumsily lifted from his crib by invisible hands did not only miss the intended scare, it literally incited rounds of laughter from the 30 plus audience in the theatre with me. Only once in a kitchen scene does the intended scare actually pay off. And since those seven seconds are maybe the highlight of the film, I won’t spoil it for you by giving anything else away.
“PA 2″ draws to conclusion with scenes of handheld chaos that leads into a final scene connecting it to the original. The ending could be a lot worse but considering the film has five credited writers** yes FIVE WRITERS, it was too little too late. After the last frame of the film the audience is left to wait about a minute or so over black before the credits roll. About 30 seconds into this I turned to my friend who went with me and asked “Is it finally over?” Before he could answer someone from two rows behind us replied “God I hope so.”
The failure of the sequel to scare is especially aggravating when compared to the original’s ability to thrill the audience with a slowly opening bedroom door. The first film terrorized us with a simple light being inexplicably turned on and terrified us with demonic footprints left by some unseen specter. But since I know that making any movie is very difficult and hindsight with this kind of medium is 20/20, I will leave you with this final thought.
If you have any desire to see this film I would seriously suggest you rent the DVD and start it about 30 minutes in. The acting is good throughout. Sprague Grayden and the rest of the cast flawlessly portray a solid family unit. I might be biased considering I worked with her on the FX drama “Over There” and found her to be a talented and dedicated actor (she’s fun to have a few drinks with too) but regardless of how good they are, you could just end up feeling cheated out of the 30 minute build up where nothing really happens.
Cut the fat. Start it 30 minutes in and enjoy.
* Source: IMDB PRO and BOXOFFICEMOJO.COM, ** Source: IMDB
WIEGENSTEIN: “Paranormal Activity 2″ better than the first film
It may seem a bit behind the curve to talk about a horror flick immediately after All Hallows’ Eve. The good news: “Paranormal Activity 2’s” giggly-shivery appeal is one for all seasons. Not only that, but it’s a movie that surpasses its predecessor — a rarity in the horror genre (see also: “The Ring 2,” “Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,” “The Exorcist 2,” and so on).
Director Tod Williams is smart enough that, rather than simply transplanting the haunted house/possession plot of the first “Paranormal Activity” to a brand new locale, the second installment works in and around that story, building upon characters we already know. Thankfully, the story threads remain in tight control, and the ultimate conclusion is neat and satisfying while largely steering clear of gimmicks.
That said, PA 2 is unable to resist the classic sequel recipe — bigger, better, more — but yet again manages to up the ante without becoming ridiculous. I mean, except for the whole demon-in-the-house part.
There are more rooms to watch, a sharper advance in creepiness once the haunting begins, and, most importantly, more characters to follow. Not only is the Rey family more likeable than the couple of the first Paranormal Activity, but the script also throws in both an adorable baby and a dog to worry about, automatically raising the tension several notches.
Both installments of the series seem remarkable to me simply because of their plot-based filming techniques: the characters use cameras that stay in one place, thus making the audience search the entire, unmoving frame for the slightest irregularity. It’s that extra effort that renders the middle section of each film — the Oh my God, did you see that door move? part — so enjoyably creepy.
“Paranormal Activity 2’s” largest misstep is in attempting to shoehorn in a back story, a reason for everything that’s happening. And while listening to the characters attempt to research on Google and whatnot is fine onscreen, we in the audience could care less about the why of things.
It’s when the script simply revels in its own spookiness that the movie is most effective. And luckily, spookiness is something that doesn’t run low here.
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