Posted by Nick Ondras on October 23, 2010 at 6:13 pm
Paranormal Activity 2 reminded me of all the things I love about horror – originality (always looking for a new way to terrorize), proper establishment (creating an atmosphere to rise panic in), and suspense from mystery and character motivation, leading to a climax that feels necessary to the story’s deliverance, not to stop and run from the problem (at least until the sequel, of course.) Horror should always attempt at the least to reach a new level than those that have come before it. To stick, something needs to have enough of a presence to give the audience a feeling they’ve never had before, or touch upon a past one that’s been buried and seemingly stashed away. To make a movie scary, it has to get under your skin.
Paranormal Activity 2 is the sequel to writer-director Oren Peli’s (who this time round helped only in story and was tacked on as producer) what’s-around-the-corner flick released around the same time last year. It first played to select college campuses across the country before being buzzed as one of the biggest shocks in recent memory, and quickly expanded to more and more showing sites until by the end of its run it had grabbed over $190 million on a budget of a few thousand. It’s not unlikely for a studio to try to make lightning strike twice, especially with Paranormal Activity and a Halloween release date sure to bring in a crowd willing to be kicked in the gut. Paranormal Activity 2 doesn’t really do that, or pack as much a notable bang as its predecessor, even if neither really hit me. If you take a look at any of the trailers for Paranormal Activity 2, you already know what to expect. At least with Paranormal Activity there was the tone of something original being gradually unveiled, or in my case, to be let down by.
The ending to the last (spoiler alert) left Katie Featherston possessed with the demon haunting the house she shared with Micah Sloat (who died in the first, 2 consistently reminds you). In its sequel both Katie and Micah return, as it is set a few months before their personal crisis was to take place. It’s not so much a dilemma of logic that strips away the unfamiliar vibe Paranormal Activity spent time setting up. We see Katie and Micah more as actors than re-enacted victims, which would be fine in any other movie had Paranormal Activity 2 not been established as a breakaway of Hollywood’s usual Pandora’s Box. It’s because of this the new family at the drive feels carried over with the mythical demon of Paranormal Activity, not particularly “haunting” them. Director Tod Williams and his shaky camera make it feel as if we’re literally thrown into tragedy. Would this occurrence have happened if we as an audience weren’t around to see it?
The Rey family, Kristi, Ali, Dan and toddler Hunter, along with Kristi’s sister, Katie, talk a big game about the demon in their house that may or may not really be there. The fear comes from the possibility of an existence more aware than they are. Paranormal Activity 2 is an almost cut-and-paste set piece from the first extended over the course of 90 minutes, but it’s here where constant talk and withstanding pool shots and more than a few scenes of legitimately nothing going on that limit Paranormal Activity 2 from becoming anything superior or at all different from its parent. And when we’re shown a black screen (the ending leaks over to that of Peli’s film) the possibility of believability, non-fiction or otherwise, is once again thrown at you in a manner of a tree falling in a forest and no one being around to hear it. In Paranormal Activity 2, Williams and screenwriter Michael R. Perry keep their chins high that there will be an inevitable amount of people who not only do hear it, but pay good money to.