Horror Movie Marathon: ‘Paranormal Activity 2’

Paranormal Activity 2
 (2010): Directed by Tod Williams. Starring Brian Boland, Molly Ephram, Katie Featherston, Sprague Grayden.

Last year I watched and reviewed Paranormal Activity and fairly enjoyed it. It wasn’t great but I experienced a couple of effective scares and I appreciated a decent, financially successful effort by a first time director. Considering the enormous amount of money raked in by the original, a sequel was inevitable. And so….

Let’s get ready to RUMMMBLLLLLLLLLE!!!

Seriously, why does every “scary” scene begin with a low, ominous rumble? I’d like to see a non-rumbly version of one of these movies to find out if the scares work without them. But anyway…

PA2 focuses on the family of Kristi (Sprague Grayden), who is the sister of Katie (Katie Featherston) from the previous film; it’s worth nothing that the events of this film take place before the first one, making this one kind of a prequel, I suppose. Kristi’s beautiful home is broken into and ransacked, prompting her husband Dan (Brian Boland) to have installed an elaborate security system, which includes 24 hour cameras rolling in nearly every room in the house. It is, of course, the footage from these cameras that make up a large portion of what we see. And scary things happen and there’s an invisible demon and, well, if you saw the first one it’s more of the same. In spite of my enjoyment of the first one I set my expectations low and still they were barely met.

To begin with, the first half of the movie drags and the paranormal activity that takes place is underwhelming. For example:

Night 1: The pool light goes out!

Night 2: The baby wakes up!

The next day… what’s that? A rumbly noise in the daytime? oh no! the mobile is turning BY ITSELF!

Night 3:  OH MY GOD! THE BABY IS AWAKE!!!! (okay, as the father of a young child, that is pretty scary…)

You get the idea. I suspect this strategy was used on purpose, to lull us into thinking that if the early scares are this lame, the rest of them can’t be any scarier. During these night scenes, as we cut from shot to shot of the house in the middle of the night, I found myself quickly scanning the screen searching for where the scary thing is going to be. Is something going to move or will it be just a noise or what? And then… nothing much.

After the movie hits the halfway point, there are a couple of good scares but by the time we get to them we’re already so frustrated and annoyed that the quality needed to quickly ramp up in order to win us back. Some of those scares worked for me; there was one I thought was so well done that I went back to watch it again. Overall, though, there wasn’t much new happening here.

Another problem with the movie is the tension that builds among the members of the family involved, which is less compelling this time around. Part of the reason seems to be that the focus is split up among more characters than the first film, which centered almost exclusively on two people. This kind of interpersonal conflict usually helps feed the anxiety of the scary scenes in a movie like this. Without it all we have are cheap bumps and bangs that make us jump in our seats and no emotional investment in the characters.

One of the final scenes near the end fails miserably. I don’t think I’m giving too much away to tell you that it involves a character using the night vision feature on a camera in order to see in a dark area. It reminded me too much of the far superior final scene in [REC], which had me clutching the arms of my chair. This confusing mess of a scene simply had me wondering what the hell was going on.

This probably sounds like I disliked Paranormal Activity 2 more than I actually did while I was watching the movie. Most of these criticisms came to mind upon reflection. But I was involved in the story and did experience some moderate scares.  It is more of the same and it occasionally got to me. But this time it I guess it lacked that first time director making it big charm that won me over last time. And that rumble is really wearing out its welcome.


2 Responses to “Horror Movie Marathon: ‘Paranormal Activity 2’”

  1. Michael K vaughan Says:

    Sounds like a snoozer. Thanks for seeing it for me.

  2. […] Paranormal Activity 3 arrives soon but I can’t get too excited about that after the last one. This week my only choice was The Thing, the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic and […]

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