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Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Paranormal Activity 2 (click for larger image)Reviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring Katie Featherston

Directed by Tod “Kip” Williams


It’s no secret that we at Dread Central have been long-time champions of Paranormal Activity. When we first saw Oren Peli’s minimalist masterpiece at its original 2007 festival premiere, we were so joyously creeped-out that we spent the next several years screaming about it from the rooftops. But no one could foresee the huge numbers and pop culture impact that came when Paramount finally unleashed it to the world last fall.

While that film made us into believers, the announcement of a Hollywood sequel turned everyone back into skeptics. The original didn’t exactly beg for a follow-up, and almost instantly people began throwing around Blair Witch 2 jokes. Sequels are tough. Sequels to cinema-verite are damn near impossible. So it is my extreme pleasure to report that the people behind this film have accomplished a minor miracle: Paranormal Activity 2 is every bit as scary as the original. In fact, it’s the Godfather II of found footage movies. This is what Aliens is to Alien.

Paranormal Activity 2 follows Katie’s sister, Kristi (referenced in the first film), and her family as they encounter the same malicious spirit that haunted them in their youth. When they return to find their house wrecked, the family members believe it to be a burglary and install security cameras across their entire property, via which most of the action takes place. At the center of it all is Kristi’s newborn baby, Hunter, whose eerie birth seems to have triggered the paranormal forces.

Paranormal Activity 2 (click for larger image)Indie filmmaker Tod (The Door in the Floor) Williams takes over directorial duties from Peli (stepping in as producer), and he masterfully handles the cinema-verite style without missing a beat. Even though he has an actual budget to play with, Williams never devolves it into an FX show, instead playing everything out practically through the same creepy minimalist techniques. As a result, we actually have a big studio sequel that doesn’t lose the indie spirit of its predecessor.

The formula is pretty much the same this go-around, but part of what makes this one so effective is the familiarity. Knowing what this family is up against makes things that much scarier, and the second the words “Night #1” flash onscreen and the eerie bass drones and thumping footsteps start shaking your intestines, it feels as if you’re thrust back into an old nightmare. What’s even more impressive is how the creators have duplicated the same experience without making the found footage angle seem contrived or repetitive. In general, sequels catch a lot of flack for over-explaining or screwing up major story elements, but the writers effortlessly tie this in with the original. Without giving anything way, there are several cause-effect revelations that will send people running back to their DVD players to revisit the original.

It goes without saying that Paranormal Activity 2 won’t win over any new fans. If the first film didn’t do anything for you, neither will this one. But if you felt the effects last time, if you hesitated before turning off the light or felt nervous in a room by yourself, prepare to feel the same again. This is a rare sequel that complements and enhances the original without betraying the elements that made it work in the first place, and watched back-to-back, it’s the perfect one-two punch of creepy excellence. Every creak and groan in your house becomes suspect, and going to sleep is that much harder. Believe it, folks; lightning can indeed strike twice, and this flick will hit you with frightening force.

4 1/2 out of 5

Discuss Paranormal Activity 2 in our Dread Central forums!

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

  • nonserviam03

    loved it. Didn’t “wow” me quiiiiite as much as the first movie, but it’s very effective, very well-written, and ties everything together nicely.

    Felt it dragged a bit towards the beginning (which I really didn’t feel at all with the first one), but when it gets rolling, it REALLY gets rolling.

    It does what a sequel needs to do.

  • deadbysunrise

    I cant wait to see this. The first one gave me the willies for weeks…..

  • LSD Zombie

    I can’t believe I’m saying this……but I actually enjoyed PA2. In fact, I thought it was superior to the first. Two of my friends thought the exact opposite which surprised me.

  • kiddcapone

    My Paranormal Activity 3 script: Night 1: I watch tv. Night 2: I watch more tv. Night 3: I scratch my balls lying on the couch. Night 4: I hear a bang noise. Night 5: I pick lint out from between my toes. Night 6: A pot falls off the rack. Night 7: I hear another bang noise, then take a poop. Night 8: I order Domino’s pizza and drink beer. Night 9: A door swings open by itself. Night 10: Another pot falls, my dog barks at the closet, and the cellar door shuts by itself. Night 11: I buy a Ouija board and try to contact evil spirits. Night 12: I get dragged off the toilet by an unseen force and something bites my leg. Night 13: Katie shows up and throws me backwards into the camera. THE END.

    • Billz

      I smell a blockbuster.

    • Sirand

      Don’t quit your day job.

    • Terminal

      Now all you need is talent. This is the generation of people who want it in your face and bloody, so it doesn’t shock me that people don’t agree with the PA movies.
      ———-
      “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

      • kiddcapone

        Only through blatant ignorance can you possibly lump everyone who doesn’t like the PA movies into that simplistic category. I guess it’s easier for you that way. The SAW movies are “in your face and bloody” and none of them would even crack my top 200 list.

        I prefer my films to be entertaining. The PA movies are simple one trick ponies following the same exact blueprint with bad actors and now the uber-lame “first born in exchange for wealth” backstory that is Tales from the Darkside eye-roll worthy. How many fucking times are they going to write a movie with next to nothing taking place for 70 minutes, then someone getting dragged by an invisible demon, biting someone, and then someone getting thrown at the camera to end the film? I mean, seriously? It was basically the same film taking place in a different house. I have NO IDEA where you people saw the movie, but BOTH PA movies I saw, the audience didn’t jump or scream, they were dead silent and moaned when the credits rolled.

        This is not Final Destination. If you want to have a franchise, up the ante and do something different each time. People blasted Blair Witch 2, but at least that sequel didn’t have 3 bad actors in the woods getting lost and ending with someone standing in a corner. That is basically what PA2 did.

        • Terminal

          Some scary stories rely on imagination and old factory Devices to get people riled up, this is a society now that wants it fast, violent, and in your face. For someone to classify this movie as seventy minutes where nothing happens?

          THAT is blatant ignorance.
          ———-
          “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

          • kiddcapone

            What “Paranormal Activity” happens in the first 60-70 minutes of the movie besides: A pot falling down, bang noises, the baby mobile spinning, and doors opening by themselves?

            In PA1, the slow buildup has a decent payoff. You can tell the intent was to show the demon slowly gaining strength and attacking at the end. I get it. But in PA2 that doesn’t hold water. Why? Because the demon has the strength to tear apart the entire place inspiring the need for cameras. If it had those kind of supernatural powers, why waste several months doing absolute jackshit like minor thumps? If it wanted the baby so bad, drag the kid into the basement. Possess someone. Burn the house down. Was the spirit really really really really bored to waste months on rookie scare tactics?

            So, I guess in PA3, PA4, and PA5: The Final Thump Noise, it will STILL SCARE YOU if the first 2/3 of the movie is filled with thud noises, lights turning on and off, doors closing, and finally ends with someone get dragged, bitten and thrown at the camera.

            All they needed to do was increase the amount of shit happening more quickly and NOT follow the same exact fucking blueprint of the first film and I would have been more impressed.

          • The Buz

            “But in PA2 that doesn’t hold water. Why? Because the demon has the strength to tear apart the entire place inspiring the need for cameras. If it had those kind of supernatural powers, why waste several months doing absolute jackshit like minor thumps? ”

            That’s much too vulgar a display of power, Kidd.

          • kiddcapone

            Great response to an obvious plothole in this poorly written carbon copy sequel.

          • Sirand

            That’s not a plot-hole. It’s your perceived logic problem.

            Because there is basically no modus-operandi for how the demon operates, that’s not really much of an argument. For all we know, the house was torn to shit when the demon came into this world from the basement (which is strongly implied).

            The first and foremost explanation is that if the demon went batshit nuts, there would be no build-up, no tension and NO MOVIE.

          • Tristan Sinns

            >>”when the demon came into this world from the basement (which is strongly implied).”

            Because the demon is from hell, and hell is located deep underground in the infernal underworld? Did they really imply something taken so ham-fisted literal from Christian literature?

            That it even gave a shit about a cross annoyed me – that it crawled up from a literal ‘hell’ is outright obnoxious.

          • Sirand

            Never thought of it as a religious thing. Again, almost everything in the PA is left so deliberately vague. But the basement seemed to be important along with the “stain” I think implied some sort of entry point or significance to the entity.

          • kiddcapone

            “The first and foremost explanation is that if the demon went batshit nuts, there would be no build-up, no tension and NO MOVIE”

            And here’s the problem, there was NO build-up, tension, and not much of a movie to be found when you use the SAME EXACT blueprint of the previous film. None.

            Paranormal Activity only works as a stand-alone movie. Period. It’s a one-trick pony using an innovative method of cheap filmmaking. You can’t do that SAME again and expect to have similar results.

            Seriously, answer me. What if there’s a PA3, PA4, and PA5. Are you REALLY going to sit there and watch lights turn on and off, doors open by themselves, and bang noises for over 60 minutes until things finally turn interesting 5 CONSECUTIVE TIMES !?!?!?! REALLY !?!?!?! How many times can they pull this off until it loses all effectiveness for you? For me, one. It did work for PA, not for PA2.

          • Terminal

            @kiddcapone: Wow, you figure a guy with an Exorcist avatar would know something about demonic workings. In the movie Pazusu just moves a drawer for the priest because he feels it’s a cute display of trickery and one that is very misleading and sets down their guard. He takes great pleasure in revealing his true unleashed power in the final moments of The Exorcist and does so at the behest of the challenge. Putting all the power in to one display is pointless and doesn’t add to the gradual breakdown of sanity and humanity.

            It’s EXACTLY what the demon does in PA. He plays with Micah, he toys with him, puts his guard down and unleashes his real motive in the final moments of PA.

            Sad, man, you should really do your homework.
            ———-
            “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

          • kiddcapone

            Did you even read a word I wrote? That’s basically the same EXACT thing I said. That is my problem with PA2 not PA1. It worked in PA because it makes sense the demon gradually increases his demonstrations of power as the fear rises and the targets sanity starts to slip. That doesn’t happen in PA2. It starts off by destroying the ENTIRE house, and then resorts back to rookie 101 ghost haunting tricks for the next several months. It doesn’t make any sense the demon would start off strong and then barely muster up turning on a light or dropping a pot when it’s clear it had the power to do whatever it wanted at any time. That’s just plain stupid.

  • kiddcapone

    Sometimes I REALLY think everyone at Dread Central gets paid big bucks to over praise and over hype all things Paranormal Activity. I just don’t get it. The only thing PA2 succeeded in was boring me MORE than PA1 and I never thought that could happen. Congrats!

    • Uncle Creepy

      If you didn’t like the original, then why did you even bother? LOL If something doesn’t work for you that doesn’t mean that everyone has to think it sucks, dude. Different strokes, ya know? And for the record … this one took on a life of its own. It’s up to the fans and the public to turn something into a success.

      • kiddcapone

        I give all movies a shot, even if I don’t like the original. I’ve never been a person who thinks my opinion trumps all and if I think it sucks, everyone else should too (don’t confuse me with Andrew, lol).

        Most movies I can at least SEE why others might like it, even if I hate them (Romero zombie movies for example) but this one is a real head scratcher. It’s two films filled with absolute nothing. While the first one DID contain several scenes that registered on the creep scale, this one just rehashed the same exact shit. Thumps? The invisible drag? The bite? The non-believer? The Quija? The fly towards the camera? Ends with Katie disappearing? ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE…AND BETTER the first time around.

        PA2 added to the storyline of the first and served no other real purpose. It wasn’t scary in the least. What is the point of having video cameras if the family almost NEVER reviews the footage? Don’t you think they should have watched what happened to Hunter when the daughter was locked out? But, nope.

        Many nights not a fucking thing at all happened. After an hour into it, I said to myself, self, if they show me the camera view of the fucking pool one more time I’m going to throw my drink at the goddamn screen. If you’re going to continue to show the friggin’ pool cleaner thing, just ONCE show something. Anything. If you subtract all the time showing NOTHING HAPPENING the movie would be 5 minutes long.

        • Uncle Creepy

          I hear ya, man. We’ll agree to disagree.

    • The Woman In Black

      If it makes you feel better, kidd, Mr. Dark absolutely HATED PA2. In fact, he’s on a mission to keep as many people as possible away from the theatre this weekend.

      • kiddcapone

        Yeah, I saw that, but it doesn’t negate the fact almost every single day I check the DC news (which is great and my #1 reason for joing here, btw) it’s dominated by Paranormal Activity stuff. As we speak, there’s 15 news articles posted and 3 of them are PA releated. It’s a daily occurance. It’s almost like this site was guaranteed a percentage of box office revenue or something (which I know isn’t really true, or is it?, lol).

        And all this publicity for a movie that is BORING.

        • Uncle Creepy

          It’s boring to you. When news happens we break it. This is the big movie this weekend. Same thing happened with Last Exorcism, The Crazies, Piranha, etc. You just notice more now because you hate this flick! LOL

          And for the record over the last 2 days we did like 5 stories on Saw 3D. It’s just the nature of the beast.

        • The Woman In Black

          And next week it’ll be Saw 3D that dominates. If the studios send out promotional materials and/or there are news stories about a movie that’s opening, we put them up. I wish we could give the indies as much love sometimes, but the cold hard fact is that demand doesn’t always equal supply.

    • The Buz

      Mother fuck if we were getting paid to promote this movie I’d be fucking rolling in it right now!

      But sadly, not the case. Just really dig the movies. :)

    • Ultimo Franco

      Kiddcapone, I don’t get it. You say in the above post that you never thought that PA2 could bore you more than the first movie. But on the boards you gave the first movie a score of 8 out of 10!

      http://www.dreadcentral.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=10604&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=paranormal&start=45

      Also on the boards you listed the first movie in your 10 Best of the Decade!

      http://www.dreadcentral.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=325082&highlight=paranormal#325082

      • GJW

        Hahahahahaha. New nickname:kiddcontradiction?

        ———————————-
        I have to return some video tapes.

      • kiddcapone

        Is it not possible to change an opinion? Is that not allowed? After my first watch, I really did like PA. But once I bought it on BluRay and rewatched it a few times, I completely soured on the entire film. It has ZERO replay value what-so-ever. The reason it worked the first time around was because I was on the edge of my seat not knowing what to expect next. Once you see the wizard behind the curtain, the film just dies and THAT is not what makes a great/best film. It’s like going through a local haunted house attraction around Halloween time more than once. The novelty wears off and it just get annoying. Once you know where all the people are hiding, it becomes boring. When you anticipate all the “scares” it loses all effectiveness, and there’s nothing else INTERESTING taking place in the film what-so-ever outside of those few select moments.

  • Terminal

    Loved the first can’t wait for this one.
    ———-
    “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

  • LeBay

    I really don’t understand all the hate people have for these movies. They’re fun little horror movies, nothing more and nothing less. They aren’t changing the world, nor are they trying to. Plus, they generate their scares the old-fashioned way, with a slow buildup and a less-is-more approach. Isn’t this what fans are always demanding a return to? The found footage approach, while admittedly not my favorite, does encourage old-fashioned scares. This is a wonderful thing.

    If the movie didn’t scare you, I would guess that few movies do. Nevertheless, I would bet money that during the suspense scenes in these films, your eyes were glued to the screen. Yeah, you can say afterwards that you didn’t like it, but you enjoyed it (maybe were even thrilled by it) while it was running. You just didn’t want to admit it afterwards.

    • LSD Zombie

      The hate I have for PA is generated by an insane ammount of hype that no film could possibly live up to. I frequently heard quotes along the lines of, “Scariest film in years!”. So understandably I was pissed when it became a waiting game for something truly terrifying to happen. Everyone’s seen a film or two that didn’t meet or exceed their expectations, mine’s PA.

    • jesstro

      I agree w/ you. Im one of those that loved PA. One for the old school method of creating mood and suspense, and I like the use of the handy cam in a movie, if done right of course. The one time that I really didn’t like it was Diary of the Dead… anyways, Im hearing good things from the camp that appreciated PA, so Im gonna watch it this weeked for shizzle!

  • Billz

    “Paranormal Activity 2 is every bit as scary as the original”

    So…it’s not scary at all then?

  • Sirand

    For the life of me, I can’t understand how any fan of the first would hate this one. It’s the perfect companion piece. It has the same indie spirit and perfectly adds to the mythology without pushing it too far.

    And “cheap jump scares?” How are they cheap? The execution is no different from the original and is always in service to the story/atmosphere.

  • Mr. Dark

    What the living bleeding holy fuck are you smoking, man? There’s no plot, there’s nothing but a bunch of cheap jump scares with absolutely no building of tension, and then there’s a resolution that rectally violates the first film entirely as Super Nanny: Exorcist Supreme and Douchebag Dad pull off a move that Father Merrin couldn’t even dream of.

    Dear GOD man…never before have you and I been so far apart on a movie. The first was a work of genius…this is the work of a bunch of producers wanting to make a quick buck off a new franchise, slapping together a bunch of random elements with the most piss-poor excuse for a script possible. FOY needed to review this, man, although I’m even loathe to inflict it on him.

    Oy. So much hate for this movie. Stabby stabby hatred. I saw it free and I want my money back.

    • Uncle Creepy

      No plot? It explains everything from the first film (which wasn’t exactly heavy on plot either) and fills in every gap in grand fashion while amping up the scare factor considerably. We’ll agree to disagree. People were shrieking in our theatre. The crowd ate up every second of it. Thus far you’re the only one I’ve seen have anything bad to say about it. That’s cool though. Sorry it didn’t work for you.

      • Cinemascribe

        Creepy, in your favor, I’d have to agree that it did tie in to the original and fleshed things out.

        But I have to agree with Mr.Dark on the rest. I just didn’t take to this. I dunno,man. Too much of a been there, done that feel for me. Once it started getting into the thick of things, it felt like a rehash. The connections to the first film only served to remind me that PA was a scarier film than this upon my initial viewing. I found PA2 to be unremarkable. I think the rest of the audience agreed, because unlike your showing, ours was greeted by dead silence the entire time.

        Different strokes, I guess. Hey, if we all liked the same things all of the time, our beloved genre would be pretty damned dull.
        ______________________________________________________________
        “I’m saying that I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man…and loved it. But now the dream is over..and the insect is awake.” – Seth Brundle

        • The Woman In Black

          For me it was less of a “been there, done that” feeling than a reunion with old friends and an expansion of the world they inhabit. Finding out what was going on behind the scenes of Katie’s “haunting” in the original was pure genius in my book. They took everything good about PA1 and amped up the suspense and chills … and with hardly any shaky cam nonsense! Using the surveillance camera angle was yet another stroke of genius. I thought all the actors were just as natural and likable as Katie and Micah (especially the teen-age daughter). For my money it’s the best prequel/sequel in years!

          • Sirand

            Easily the best prequel ever made.

          • Uncle Creepy

            But it’s so much more than a prequel, too. It takes place during three different periods of time. Before, during, and after. There’s no reason in the world this movie should have been good. I’m still kind of shocked.

          • Cinemascribe

            “Finding out what was going on behind the scenes of Katie’s “haunting” in the original was pure genius in my book. They took everything good about PA1 and amped up the suspense and chills”

            See, I disagree about this. I think less was more here. the references to Katie’s past were vague in the original and I thought that was creepier.We knew something was going on from early on in her life, but not exactly what.
            All we needed to know was whatever happened was apparently unpleasant. The film took care of the rest.

            I don’t think PA2 is “awful” per se.It’s technically well crafted and the performances are okay (except for Micah, who I still can’t stand for more than 30 seconds at a time).

            But as a horror film I think it’s wanting. It had a few effective moments,but not nearly enough for me to recommend it to people. I certainly wouldn’t give it as high a rating as what I see here. Mine would be closer to two knives. I wasn’t remotely as scared as I was the first time around and when the dust settles and the lights go up, that’s the key criteria I have for assessing the value of a sequel of this type.

            Not that my opinion matters at all. :) It looks like positive feedback from just about everyone else who’s seen it will make PA2 a huge hit. Love it or loathe it, I think the next big franchise has likely been established .

            ————————————————-
            “I’m saying that I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man…and loved it. But now the dream is over..and the insect is awake.” – Seth Brundle

    • The Buz

      Actually sir, the question should be redirected at you for the rest of us greatly enjoyed PA2.

      So I asked, what indeed have you been smoking?

  • LSD Zombie

    Yay…..more dragged bodies and sounds of footsteps.

    • Mr. Dark

      Oh man…if only it were that. You don’t even want to know. I loved the first one, but this…oh…oh the hurting.

  • PelusaMG

    Colour me happy… and excited… and little moist! :)
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