Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Drama,Horror,Mystery,Thrillers Movie Review of ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ (2010)

Movie Review of ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ (2010)

Out of all the sequels in recent years, it’s doubtful anyone expected Paranormal Activity 2 to be any good. Hurriedly rushed into production after the original earned $195 million at the worldwide box office (from a $15,000 budget) and burdened by the usual negative perceptions of sequels (see the sequel to The Blair Witch Project), everything was working against this follow-up. On paper, these projects just do not work. Yet, 2010’s Paranormal Activity 2 is a rare sequel/prequel that lives up to what came before it and works as an excellent companion piece to its predecessor. Since the material’s appeal lies in conveying classic haunted house chills via the familiar home video medium, it was inevitable that this sequel would be derivative. Without branching off into different subject matter and aesthetic, the screenwriters (Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, and Tom Pabst) had little choice but to expand upon the central concept and conceive of a new scenario. They did exactly that, and pulled it off successfully. The film is not perfect, but moments of effective atmosphere-building and a number of big scares cancel out the most glaring flaws.

The story is primarily a prequel, with 90% of the events chronicled in this film taking place a short time prior to the occurrences of the original Paranormal Activity. The characters this time around are a married couple: Daniel (Boland) and Kristi (Grayden). Daniel is somewhat older, and has a teenage daughter named Ali (Ephraim) from a previous marriage. And Kristi is the sister of Katie (Featherston), who was one of the protagonists of the original film. Several months after welcoming a newborn baby named Hunter (played by the Prieto twins), the family are alarmed when they come home to a ransacked house. Assuming it was a break-in, they install surveillance cameras around the interior and exterior of their abode. Soon, spooky things begin to transpire around the household, which gradually escalate in terms of intensity and danger.

By revamping the first-person demon encounter premise and adding more characters, this is a dual prequel/sequel which not only offers clarity and back-story to the original but also a chilling vision of its own. Paranormal Activity 2 does not simply play it safe and lazily deliver a bunch of cheap scares. Instead, it expands upon the mythology of the first movie and represents an ideal companion piece. It’s fundamentally a bookend for the original movie, too; it examines the niceties of the events preceding Micah and Katie’s ordeal, and in the film’s terrifying final few minutes it offers a glimpse of what transpires immediately after the original film. Naturally, room is left wide open for a third instalment in the series (which was officially announced a month after this second film entered cinemas and became a box office smash). If the third film is as clever and as satisfying as this second film, bring it on.

Like its predecessor, Paranormal Activity 2 entirely consists of supposedly found footage that has been spliced together. No opening credits or studio logos kick off the film – instead, there’s just a title card thanking the local police and the families of the deceased, thus establishing the illusion of documentary realism. The “found footage” approach has been updated for this follow-up though – a large majority of the footage is derived from the home security camera system, while the family’s camcorder provides supplemental snippets. This approach at least eliminates the usual “found footage” movie contrivance of someone always running around with a camera during the most severe and unlikely of circumstances. In fact, on the occasions when the characters do walk around with a camcorder, we never wonder why because the purpose is always clear. However, like in the original movie, there are jarring jump cuts, some of which occur during dialogue exchanges. It harms the naturalism approach, as it feels like the footage has been heavily tampered with.

2009’s Paranormal Activity did a terrific job of incrementally elevating both the creepiness factor and the intensity factor with every scene, as well as generating an ominous atmosphere. These qualities are not fully retained here, unfortunately. The scares here are less subtle than those in the preceding film – Paranormal Activity 2 usually goes straight for the jugular with loud noises and quick payoffs. Fortunately, this is forgivable, because it merely represents a different method of scaring viewers, and this method is still scary. Thankfully, too, the scares are not as overblown as typical horror flicks which rely on loud scoring to generate scares. Minus musical accompaniment, Paranormal Activity 2 scares viewers through falling pans, toy trucks mysteriously moving on their own, slamming doors, and menacing figures visible in grainy night-time surveillance footage. Thus, while new director Tod Williams could not evoke the sheer terror that Oren Peli orchestrated in the original film, this sequel still delivers its share of tension and scares. However, the film is not taut enough – it’s littered with dead weight. For instance, there are lingering shots of the pool every single day but nothing ever happensand there’s no payoff. These shots are pointless, as they do not contribute to character building or the atmosphere.

With the film primarily functioning as a prequel, the protagonists from the original Paranormal Activity were provided with an opportunity to feature as supporting characters. Thus, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat made their return here, and both are completely believable in their roles. The new slate of main characters are also convincing due to their naturalistic acting styles. In particular, Molly Ephraim (College Road Trip) is arresting as Ali, who records the goings-on with the family’s camcorder and investigates the possible cause of the haunting. Brian Boland and Sprague Grayden are consistently focused, too. Boland in particular afforded a tremendous amount of intensity and believability to his role. These people actually feel like a real family, which is a huge achievement.

It would have been easy for a studio to throw tens of millions of dollars into this sequel and produce a special effects-laden horror film with glossy camerawork, but this would have betrayed what this franchise is all about. Instead, Paranormal Activity 2 shows restraint. Many will complain about the derivative nature of the narrative, but this seems like such an uptight thing to criticise since the story nonetheless comes together beautifully. It goes without saying, though, that if you detested the original movie and failed to see what the fuss is all about, you should avoid this sequel. Avid fans of Paranormal Activity, on the other hand, should seek out and watch this sequel at the earliest opportunity.


4 thoughts on “Movie Review of ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ (2010)”

  1. I wasn’t a massive fan of Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2, however in the second movie i did like that it started off as a prequel and ended as a sequel. The rest of the time i felt it was a lot of hanging around before anything actually happened, building up tension i guess, but watching people sit around kind of makes it feel like your watching big brother!! (need i say more.) Overall, it’s something different and i like things that are different. Erin-Jane

  2. Personally I wouldn’t like the movie if I watched it at home. Its definitely a movie to watch at the cinema, just because audience reactions make the experience tolerable and somewhat memorable. My advice is to either watch with a massive group of friends or don’t watch it at all. It’s a great movie to laugh at with friends, or for all you whimps out there to have a little scare.
    Well written review :)

  3. Very well written review, I think what makes this movie scary to many people is the idea that you have to fill in the blanks with what is happenng because you never see anythin. I have never been a fan of films that rely on jump scares but I really have to give this movie credit for it allows the audience to use there imaginations.

  4. This is a very well writen review with a lot of detail. Thank you and for most of it I will agree. It is an odd prequel / sequel with hats off to the movie industry, as so many movies are becoming predictable. There were a couple of areas that did cause me to jump as they were unexpected (sort of), however I was not blown away by this movie. I give it more credit for being original to some extent, the remakes are starting to be too much, so for this I say thanks. The fact that we have to use our brains to think of what is happening off screen is also nice. This can scare people more because it forces you to use your own fears to draw a conclusion to what is so scary we cannot see, as well as the family is scared of each other, makes one squirm a little at night. Thank you for the great review on a average movie :)

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