Paranormal Activity 2 review
It must have been my screening, but people around me found Paranormal Activity 2 hilarious. Sure, I'd blame the hoards of 15-year-old girls, but with every bump in Daniel and Kristi's house, screams would be followed by hoards of laughter. Not to make fun of the “real” events to the family, but all of the creepy supernatural stuff was just as funny as spooky, at least for my fellow viewers. This isn't exactly the best way to enjoy a film that likes to tout itself as a sequel to the scariest film of 2009.
Thankfully, Paranormal Activity 2 is still a scary film. It's actually a horrifying film, and while I was laughing with the rest, I suspect this humor had more to do with dispelling the sense of dread we all shared. This is a stressful film, and much of that credit given to director Tod Williams for this.
Much like the predecessor, the slowly evolving progression of the documentary style film brings a level of reality to the story, so much that it is unnerving and disquieting. For the family of Daniel (Brian Boland) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden), as well as her sister Katie (Katie Featherston), the horrors that bump through their home feels that much more realistic, thanks to the forced “reality” of the recording devices. Like the Blair Witch Project before it, and Cloverfield to a certain extent, the fictional reality of hand-held cameras make these films even more horrifying than the typical teen slasher flick.
The big surprise about Paranormal Activity 2 is that it serves as both a prequel and a sequel, chronicling the truth of what built up to the events of the first film, as well as immediately after the first film. Katie is back, and while Kristi's sweet and demure younger sister is normal at first glance, we find out she isn't that way forever. But that would be jumping ahead too far.
Paranormal Activity 2 revolves around Katie's older sister Kristi and her husband Daniel, their baby Hunter and teen daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim). We are introduced to them courtesy of a hand-held camera as the newborn is brought home from the hospital. Months later, after the house is supposedly broken into, Dan and Kristi install security cameras throughout the house, while Ali chronicles everything else from a decidedly first-person perspective. It is from these lenses that we see the progression of events as the family is demented by a demon, and this strictly defined viewpoint is perfect for building a sense of impending doom. It was fantastic in the first film, and built upon smartly in the second.
Anyway, after normal day-to-day discussions between the members of the household, including Kristi's sister Katie and her doomed boyfriend, Micah (Micah Sloat), we are treated to the almost silent footage of what goes bump in the night. At first it is simple stuff, like dropped pans and loud thumps, but it slowly progresses to downright terrifying moments. The ending, which I'm leaving spoiler free, is the only real moment of danger for the characters, yet is so startling that the audience is left with their jaws dropped and a dawning sense of realization. We see the horror unfold right in front of us, a strong departure from the implied ending of the first film. It's a cathartic release we never expected we would need.
The Paranormal Activity franchise (it is a franchise now, right?) has been built perfectly. While the first film addressed a random possession of one woman, the sequel builds it out to describe how this possession happened, what it could possibly mean, and alludes to a potential sequel. While most horror films flounder in their inept sequels, Paranormal Activity 2 is even better than the original, and the potential for a third film in this franchise, which slowly peels away information like an onion, is compelling and fascinating. Paranormal Activity 2 is a perfect example of a horror film done right, challenging our notions of what is truly terrifying.