Paranormal Activity is one of those love/hate relationships. Big props to the amateur filmmakers who were able to create a film with some decent creepy moments on basically no budget, building the success of their blossoming franchise essentially through word of mouth. Paranormal Activity went on to amass around $107 million, making it dollar for dollar one of the most successful movies of all time. Most audiences, myself included, found the first film to provide enough creepiness and suspense to satisfy. It was refreshing to see a horror film that played off of some actual fear as opposed to the steady diet of slasher or torture porn flicks we are normally fed. Although it’s clear that Paranormal Activity was in the hands of unseasoned filmmakers, we were able to give them a pass for most of their faults and just enjoy the experience for what it was. It annoys me to no end when the haters spew all over the interwebs about what an abomination of a film it was or how anyone who thought it was scary must have serious mental issues. Look, certain things set certain people’s imaginations off. For some, it’s a chainsaw-wielding madman or skyscraper-sized monsters. For some, it’s the unknown things that go bump in the night. It’s footsteps, loud bangs, and shadows that we endure in Paranormal Activity, and I think it’s extremely pompous and arrogant to blindly brand fans of the franchise as idiots for liking it. If you didn’t like the first one then just say it wasn’t for you or that you just didn’t find it scary enough rather than proclaim yourself holier than thou and the be-all of cinematic critique. I’m sorry your mommies didn’t hug you enough as children but get over yourselves. It was what it was and never proclaimed to be some Oscar-worthy achievement.
I had tempered my expectations for Paranormal Activity 2, after all, the franchise was now in the hands of Hollywood which we could presume would kill the buzz from the first film. After viewing PA2, I can say that they did not bastardize the original. In fact, they stayed so completely true to the original that it might be said that PA2 was essentially the same movie. No new ground was broken here. At all. All of the same effects and jump scares that caught us in the first are present here, but it’s too bad that this time around we are waiting for them, which sort of kills the effect. Essentially, it’s just more of the same ‘ole same ‘ole.
We learn pretty quickly that PA2 is actually a prequel to the first film. We are introduced to Katie’s sister, Kristi, and her family which consists of her husband, Dan, stepdaughter Ali and newborn son, Hunter. The action starts off 60 days prior to the ending of PA1. The demon that tortures Katie and Micah in the first flick is wreaking havoc on Kristi’s home. When the family comes home to find the entire house ransacked by what they assume to be burglars, Dan has surveillance cameras installed throughout the property. This gives us the same feel of the first flick as we catch everything that happens on camera.
Similar to the first flick, PA2 is a slow burn. The frights are painfully gradual, coming almost exactly in the order they came in PA1. Loud boom, footsteps, shadows, clutch, and grab, etc. etc. Again, it begs the question, why the hell are these people still in this house when everything is being spelled out for them when they replay the videos every day? What more of a clue that you are in danger are you waiting for? That was one of my biggest gripes about the first film. Any semi-sane person is going to beat feat from the premises and take a shot at the Red Roof Inn for a while. I know the concept revolves around a demon that follows them and they have been told that leaving the house won’t rid them of the spirit, but really, don’t you think you’ve got to give it a shot?
Apparently only animals, babies, and Latinos can see evil spirits. The dog, Abby, does a great job on cue. Scooby Snacks all around. I’m pretty sure the baby that played Hunter is fucked mentally for life. Someone was clearly just off camera trying to get his attention to give the effect that he was looking at something. As much as he cried during the film I have to wonder what that stagehand was waving around. Then there was the family’s housekeeper, Martine, who is promptly let go as she breaks out the D-Con spirit bomb and clam bakes the house while carrying little Hunter in her arms. Mom and Dad are none too happy to walk in on their infant son getting a contact high from Martine’s spirit extermination methods.
One of the other big gripes from the first flick was that the filmmakers tried to cram every cliche ghost story effect into the movie, including the dreaded Ouija Board. Why do people insist that Ouija Boards are an essential element in telling a ghost story? Thing is, Paranormal Activity is not a ghost story, it’s a demon story, which renders the Ouija moot. I figured that now that the franchise was in the hands of real filmmakers that maybe they wouldn’t fall into this trap, but lo and behold, enter the Ouija about halfway in. Again, it was an unnecessary addition that just reeked of cliche. Horror fans are not that stupid. Stop it. This was where the story jumped the shark, adding nothing more in the way of frights that we haven’t seen before and just didn’t give us the experience of the first film.
It’s likely that Paranormal Activity is going to be the next Halloween franchise. I suspect we’ll see a continuation of the story next year as they have left the story open-ended yet again. I will give some limited props for the way they tied the two films together continuity-wise. We now know what happened to Katie in the short term after the events of PA1, but I have to say that I was disappointed overall in the lack of anything original in this flick. I’m also going to give a bonus point to the studio for not bringing this to us in 3-D. That just wouldn’t have worked at all.
I wanted to like PA2. In the end, I really didn’t. Lightning did not strike twice in my opinion. The next installment needs to bring us something in the way of backstory. What is this spirit that haunts this family? They really need to give us something more in the way of frights that aren’t telegraphed beforehand. I jumped once, and for a movie that relies on its jump scares for much of its the effect on the audience, that is a big fail.