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

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Terminal's picture

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."

Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 9:07pm.
LeBay's picture

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.

Submitted by LeBay on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 4:59pm.
jesstro's picture

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!

Submitted by jesstro on Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:47pm.

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.

Submitted by LSD Zombie on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 7:46pm.

"Paranormal Activity 2 is every bit as scary as the original"'s not scary at all then?

Submitted by Billz on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 4:09pm.
Sirand's picture

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.

Submitted by Sirand on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 7:14am.
Mr. Dark's picture

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.

Submitted by Mr. Dark on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 5:28am.
The Buz's picture

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?

Submitted by The Buz on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 7:20am.
moderator No plot? It explains
Steve Barton's picture

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.

Submitted by Steve Barton on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 6:05am.
Cinemascribe's picture

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

Submitted by Cinemascribe on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 7:31am.
moderator For me it was less of a
Debi Moore's picture

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!

Submitted by Debi Moore on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 2:01pm.
Cinemascribe's picture

"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

Submitted by Cinemascribe on Fri, 10/22/2010 - 4:49am.
Sirand's picture

Easily the best prequel ever made.

Submitted by Sirand on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 3:36pm.
moderator But it's so much more than a
Steve Barton's picture

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.

Submitted by Steve Barton on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 4:59pm.

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

Submitted by LSD Zombie on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 3:28am.
Mr. Dark's picture

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.

Submitted by Mr. Dark on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 5:29am.

Colour me happy... and excited... and little moist! :)
Please consider the environment before printing this message...

Submitted by PelusaMG on Wed, 10/20/2010 - 11:50pm.

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