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Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) *1/2

October 23, 2010

 

writtten by: Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon & Tom Pabst (story by Michael R. Perry with characters created by Oren Peli)

produced by: Oren Peli, Jason Blum, & Akiva Goldsman

directed by: Tod Williams

rated R (for some language and brief violent material.)

91 min.

U.S. release date: October 22. 2010

Unlike many, I didn’t think that much about the forgettable “Paranormal Activity” from last year. Maybe it’s because I saw the low-budget thriller at home on DVD which removed the vibe you get from a generally excited audience at a preview screening. Maybe. Still, if a movie is genuinely good then the environment and location you watch it in should matter not, ideally. Having now seen both films, I can confidently claim that neither of them are good. But that didn’t stop the first one from becoming a pop-culture sensation instantly, with viewers tweeting in their seats at how “OMG!” it was. Paramount Pictures capitalizes on that phenomenon by bringing back the weak acting, tepid scares, and coma-inducing surveillance footage that made the first movie so….profitable.

I understand that horror/thriller fans needed a change. With all the remakes of both foreign and American films, prequels, sequels and torture porn out there, “Paranormal Activity” landed at the right time with something a little different. Not innovative mind you, just another perspective on this new “found footage” sub-genre. What makes this new movie slightly better is that it is mostly a prequel with a shocking sequel at its coda, which is also what hinders the movie, for those who barely recall or have not seen the previous chapter.

The story starts with Daniel (Brian Boland) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden) bringing welcoming their baby boy Hunter to their Carlsbad, California home. As they embark on the brand new journey called parenthood, they’re not alone. There’s also Daniel’s teen daughter, Ali (Molly Ephraim), from a previous marriage (we later learn that he is widowed), their nanny/housekeeper, Martine and the family’s loyal German Shepherd, Abby. Of course, this being the kind of movie it is, we soon see that this cast of characters (often relegated to mere plot devices) are not alone. 

Unfortunately, it takes a while for any paranormal presence to make itself known, and while we wait (don’t tell me you’re not), we’re subjected to the comings and goings of an uninteresting family via shakey-cam home video. Why? Because doesn’t every family record their every mundane move? 

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 Katie

  

When the unexplained occurrences begin, we’re relieved that something is finally happened. The biggest disruption is what appears to be a break-in where their house is trashed. Ali discovers that the only thing stolen was a necklace that her aunt Katie (Katie Featherston), gave to her Kristi as a gift. The whole thing is unnerving for her and Daniel responds by having their entire home installed with security camera, inside and out, every inch. Thus begins the audiences subjection to hours and hours, day after day, and night after night, of surveillance footage. Even then, it takes forever for anything out of the ordinary to be revealed.

As specific family members start to experience random loud sounds, lights flickering, and doors mysteriously opening and closing (except for skeptical Daniel in stereotypical fashion), we also learn that Kristi and her sister have a history with the supernatural. This is no news to anyone familiar with the previous film, in fact it expands on what we learned there. But any revelations fleshed-out here from the first movie are lost on those making this their first paranormal activity. Then again, one question would be: Why would you see this movie if you didn’t see the first one? If you’re into these kind of films, then you surely would’ve already devoured last year’s entry.

For those who did see the first film, Katie and her husband Micah (Micah Sloat) are back, making this both a prequel and a sequel. Micah is seldom seen, while Katie figures prominently as a supporting presence. Kristi shares her concerns with Katie about the growing activity at her home, yet Katie seems to be only slightly interested in the effect it all has on her sister. She’d rather play with baby Hunter while the camera rolls. As their story eeks along through more surveyed/homemade footage, we see Abby bark at the air, a screaming Hunter standing up in his crib in the middle of the night, some creepy dark shadows, and (of course), Ali playing with a Ouija board (again!) with her boyfriend while babysitting Hunter.  

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 Still 4

 

Clearly, the producers and screenwriters know what worked for the fans before and settle on repeating more of the same here. One thing we do learn from this movie is you should never fire your Latin nanny when she fills your home with stinky incense to ward off any evil spirits. For your own good, just let that fly. Okay? Good. That character, along with the dog and the poor baby, are simply plot devices that increase the “activity” once they are removed. Actually, to be fair (to the writers not the baby), Hunter is more of a McGuffin than a device but that in and of itself is entirely forced by an uninterestingly weak plot thread. Oh wait, we also learn that a internet-savvy teen can be quite the resource….if only someone will listen to her!  

Since the same tactics are employed in “Paranormal Activity 2” as the it’s predecessor, the studios could have used any director.  So, we may never know what talent director Tod Williams (2004’s “Door in the Floor”) brings here since all we see is rehashed material. Essentially same demon, same family with a couple new characters and a different location. 

There is a common reaction when one doesn’t share in what others find to be a satisfying cinematic experience. I get it all the time. When I share with others I didn’t enjoy a film (especially a film with expected fanbase), they usually say something like, “Well, you just gotta go in without a whole lot of expectations, you know….knowing what it is.” Say what? That’s ridiculous. Why would you subject yourself to a movie already knowing you were going to get more of the same, at the very least. Unless, you are a fan of “the same” and obviously there  is a built-in audience awaiting their annual dose of what they have watched the previous year. Just look at the “Saw”series, which is probably the template this franchise will be emulating.

Sure the audience I sat with reacting to the typical loud noises and jerky camera scares and the filmmakers do try to link this movie to the other one, but that’s it. That’s all you get. Unless, you really wanted to know how Micah come to his love for large video cameras or wondered how and why Katie did what she did….then this movie is for you. And so is the same film that will be released this time next year and the year after that.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 Katie 2

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    October 23, 2010 1:48 pm

    Not my type of movie at all, but it was fun reading your review! And, of course, I am totally guilty of saying something along the lines of “well, you just have to go in knowing what you are going to get and not expect so much” to you! …I do believe we had that conversation about Twilight, yes? hehehe

    Have you seen RED yet?

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      October 23, 2010 2:19 pm

      er, have you read my review of “Red” yet? (heh heh)

  2. Kristen permalink
    February 12, 2011 7:53 pm

    If you are going to write a review, at least proofread it. You got the names of the characters wrong in a few places. In paragraphs 5, 6, and 7 you refer to Ali as Katie’s sister (comments about the necklace, previous history with the supernatural, etc.). Kristy is the new mom, Katie is her sister, and Ali is the teenage daughter.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      February 13, 2011 4:33 pm

      Thank you for catching that, Kristen. While I do proofread all my work, that important element must have slipped past my radar. It has since been rectified.

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