Paranormal Activity 2 * 1/2

Genre: Horror

Director: Tod Williams

Writer: Michael R. Perry

Cast: Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ehpraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

Running Length: 91 minutes

Synopsis: Events in Paranormal Activity 2 take place between one and two months before those that were featured in Paranormal Activity. Instead of a couple, the cast has expanded to include a whole family. Kristi (Sprague Grayden) is the sister of Katie (Katie Featherstone, of the first film), and is married to Dan (Brian Boland), his second marriage after the death of his wife. Dan has a teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ehpraim), and the couple has a new baby boy, Hunter. However, things start to go bump in the night when Hunter turns one…

Review: The phenomenal box office success of the first Paranormal Activity all but assured the birth of this sequel (it’s actually both a prequel AND a sequel), but the important question is – apart from a money grab, was there any other compelling reason Paranormal Activity 2 should be made? The answer is no, and it’s quite clear as this film unfolds.

Audiences who have watched the first movie already know how this second movie is going to develop, and thus the creepiness of the first film is almost entirely obliterated. Whilst Paranormal Activity 2 has a good number of cheap “boo!” scares, it never feels as spontaneous as its predecessor. Put in another way, this movie is almost spiritually (pun not intended) identical to the first film, which is not a good thing if the only way the movie can scare its audience is by catching them off guard.

With Paranormal Activity 2, the decision was made to integrate footage from a number of fixed CCTV cameras. This reduces the contrived nature of the first film where the leads seem to be carrying their camera everywhere they went, but this artifice does not go away completely. There are still a handful of scenes which require a great suspension of disbelief: why would anyone not in a reality TV show bring along a camera wherever they went? How does a teenage girl manage to do her online research so well that she could pinpoint exactly what’s wrong in the house, and yet not manage to convince anyone in her family to get out of the house right away?

Credit should be given where it’s due, however, and at least the producers and writers (the director of the first Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli, takes a back seat and is merely credited as a writer on the second film) made an effort to integrate the events into the chronology of the first film’s events. This also allows the two leads in Paranormal Activity to return as supporting characters, and also sets in place, unsurprisingly, the possibility of a third movie.

Is Paranormal Activity 2 a true horror movie? I would have to say “not really” – much as there are many shocking moments, truly scary scenes are virtually nonexistent. The audience is fully prepared to be shocked, and there just isn’t anything new enough to pull the rug out from beneath the audience’s feet. The movie never fills one with dread, and the entire atmosphere feels watered down from the first film. It’s difficult to say if the Paranormal Activity movies can become a franchise since it’s essentially a one-trick pony, but with its first weekend box office in the USA being a runaway success, Paranormal Activity 3 is surely not far behind. Taken on its own, Paranormal Activity 2 still entertains, but as a horror film it’s a decidedly middling one. 

Rating: * ½ (out of four stars)

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