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.
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
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