April 12, 2011
Rabid Rewind: Paranormal Activity 2
starring Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, and Sprague Grayden
directed by Tod Williams
screenplay by Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, Tom Pabst, & Oren Peli
Paramount Pictures (2010)
About a year ago, I reviewed the first Paranormal Activity. I really liked it. Enjoyed it as much as The Blair Witch Project, if not a little more. But before I even had a chance to see it, I heard the box office success of the movie prompted Paramount to hot-shot a sequel into production in time to hit theaters one year later. Yikes.
I'm not opposed to sequels, but when they come with such rapidity, I get nervous. Saw was a really good horror movie that I thought took the genre in an interesting direction, but Saw 2 came out a mere one year later and pissed all over its potential. So, my expectations for Paranormal Activity 2 were already low.
In actuality, this movie is a prequel. Where it was Katie and her boyfriend, Micah, being tormented by a spirit in their home, we discover it started with Katie's sister, Kristi and her family. It's a kind of origin story for the haunting itself and sets up the mythology of the family and its curse rather well.
Kristi and her husband, Dan, are the victim of a robbery. But the only item stolen is a cherished necklace that was a gift from Katie. So Dan installs a bunch of security cameras inside and outside the house, and thus we have our method of watching the events unfold within the home. In the first movie, we went by a single camera used by Micah to record the paranormal activity. This time is edited footage of the security tapes, as well as some handy cam footage of their daughter (Kristi's stepdaughter), Ali.
The haunting starts off slow, with things being misplaced and other weird stuff, but it amps up gradually and revolves around Dan and Kristi's infant son, Hunter. But the family doesn't clue in right away and winds up blaming their maid for the weird shit, ultimately firing her. But things escalate and paranoia becomes prevalent, especially as Ali realizes there is a spirit in the house.
On one level, this movie is really fun to watch. It relies on that waiting-for-the-scare tension through a lot of scenes, and you constantly watch the screen during quiet moments, trying to spot where the spirit will manifest itself. A dropped frying pan, a pool vacuum moving on its own, or even spontaneous combustion. But on another level, it feels very familiar and it doesn't carry as much of an impact as from the first movie. Plus, the denial from the father as he watches the recorded footage that shows really weird shit, and using flimsy reasoning to not even care to look into it, is aggravating. The movie needs a doubting Thomas, but the guy takes it to an annoying level.
The payoff at the end makes up for any doldrum or loss of momentum through the early going of the film, but to hear there is a Paranormal Activity 3 in the works for release later this year, I am left with no other choice but to expect even less from that movie. This is a good horror movie, but it's only for people who are into the mythology of the first one or just enjoy haunting stories. Otherwise, I think people could skip this one.