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Paranormal Activity 2 (A Movie Review)

Updated: Dec 13, 2023


Starring Brian Boland, Sprague Grayden, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Seth Ginsberg, Vivis, William Juan Prieto, Jackson Xenia Prieto, David Bierend and Harper Zelinsky.

Screenplay by Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon and Tom Pabst.

Directed by Tod Williams.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 91 minutes. Rated R.

The original Paranormal Activity had a pretty definitive, hard and fast ending. It seemed pretty much like they took the story as far as it could go.

Therefore, it was kind of surprising when they announced that they were working on a sequel to the film with the same stars as the original, particularly because – without giving the original’s ending away – neither of the main characters seemed like they would be predisposed or even likely able to come back for another go around.

However, that tiny little film turned into a word-of-mouth smash and Hollywood will always place money over storytelling consistency. The movie biz has never been shy about milking film franchises for all they are worth, even if the filmmakers really had pretty much told the entire story that needed to be told.

It turns out that they took care of the problem of having already finished their story by making Paranormal Activity 2 a prequel – a look at the same characters’ lives a couple of months before the actions of the original film (although there is a brief postscript which takes place afterwards). Which, I suppose technically makes the original film Paranormal Activity 2 and this one part one.

It also removes a good deal of the suspense from the story – because this time around we know for sure that they will have to survive whatever happens here in order to experience the supernatural goings-on of the original film.

Because of this kind of obvious plotting problem, the main roles of Katie and Micah from the first film are actually just supporting characters in the new movie. The actual story revolves more around Katie’s sister and her family.

However, once again the film is supposed to be made up of a hand-held homemade video record of normal everyday people dealing with the supernatural.

Of course, this leaves a very basic problem with the concept of the movie. Paranormal Activity 2 is a horror sequel and the whole instinct behind horror sequels is to pump up the shocks from the first go around – make everything bigger and scarier. This is rather counter-intuitive to the idea behind Paranormal Activity, though, which relied on subtly scaring its audience, in lo-tech ways, often off camera. Making the scares more in your face and obvious simply undoes the hard-earned sense of unease and dread.

Paranormal Activity understood that what you don’t see is often scarier than what you do see. Paranormal Activity 2 tends to forget this rule.

But more to the point, even though Paranormal Activity 2 can be a very chilling film, it can simply never recapture the sheer originality and uniqueness of the first film. That film – shot on a shoestring budget by Oren Peli – used its own financial limitations to great effect and they were able to sell the idea that this was indeed the found video of a couple who became ensnared in a nefarious game with a demon.

Paranormal Activity 2 – which was not made by Peli, by the way, though he is still on board as one of the producers – had more money, is more slickly and perhaps professionally made, but does not pack the visceral punch of the first. Instead, a bit of a been-there, done-that feeling descends over the movie. It is well done, but we’ve seen it all before.

Also, frankly, for the most part, the characters here are not as sympathetic as in the first one – I don’t want to say likable, because even in the first one the character of Micah was kind of a dick. This is particularly noticeable in a section where the father tries to free his family of the demon and at the same time, somewhat knowingly, sics the creature upon his sister-in-law, essentially setting up the occurrences of the first film. It feels like a pretty gutless move and it’s hard to root for the survival of a guy like that.

Nonetheless, Paranormal Activity 2 does have some good scares – and adding a teen girl and a toddler to the mix does somewhat ratchet up the scare quotient.

This prequel doesn’t live up to the first film, but if that movie whetted your appetite for more details and backstory on what happened, Paranormal Activity 2 does a reasonably good job of filling in some of the blanks.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: January 29, 2011.


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