Oct 19, 2014

Review: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

I'm a pretty big fan of the first Paranormal Activity movie except for its extremely disappointing ending. That doesn't stop it from being a powerhouse in scariness and it's definitely not a movie you want to watch on your own, especially if it's late at night. It does a great job at suspending disbelief and patiently builds itself up as things progressively get worse and worse for the main characters.

This is my second run through the series (not including Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) and I remember my anticipation before seeing this movie. Or was that dread? Both feelings were probably mixed in there. Paranormal Activity 2 despite its title is in fact a prequel to the first movie. More specifically, it takes place before and during the events of the first film so there are some familiar faces from the first movie that we get to see again.


Genre: horror
Directed by: Tod Williams
Produced by: Jason Blum, Oren Peli, Akiva Goldsman, etc.
Written by: Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, Tom Pabst
Music by: N/A
Running time: 98 minutes
Production company: Paramount Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Solana Films, etc.
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures, Finnkino, United International Pictures, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $3,000,000
Box office: $177,512,032 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Seth Ginsberg, Vivis Cortez, Jackson Xenia Prieto, William Juan Prieto



Things are going very nicely in the Rey household. Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Dan (Brian Boland) bring home their newborn son Hunter to meet his older sister Ali (Molly Ephraim). The family goes away for a little while to return and find their home completely trashed except for Hunter's room. So begins some strange goings on in the house that housekeeper Martine (Vivis Cortez) believes is the work of an evil spirit. All of this brings back some horrifying childhood memories for Kristi.


One of the best things about Paranormal Activity 2 is the evolution of how the nighttime scenes are captured. The first film did this with a single stationary camera on a tripod in the bedroom of Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat). Now we have multiple feeds from several security cameras in the Rey household and the effect is really good.

Once again you find yourself scanning during the night for something that might or might not happen. There are many times where you find your pulse starting to quicken once night rolls around. Unlike the first film where for the most part things happen only at night, PA2 has quite a few scenes that happen in the daytime. You're never really safe at any part of the day and that too is a welcome change from the first film.

However there's less of an effort at suspending the viewer's disbelief. As a whole, Paranormal Activity 2 is not as effective at creating much tension with its characters during down times of scariness. I guess that's because there's just less time spent with them and more time spent watching their house through their security cameras. While the film is definitely scary, it's not quite as deep as its predecessor which really gave a lot more time to its characters. There are way more characters this time around too though, so for sure that is a contributing factor to the problem.

Paranormal Activity 2 is also a bit different in its approach at horror. There are way more jump scares that announce themselves with a really loud bang. I won't deny that these scares are incredibly "jump-worthy" and on more than one occasion, I was got good. That's even though it was my second time watching it. I just can't shake the feeling that a jump scare, no matter how good, doesn't replace a real scare. There were more of those scares in Paranormal Activity.

The ending of PA2 is however a slight improvement over the first movie. (Spoilers) I say slight because it ends with the same killing move of the first movie which isn't terribly original. The two movies are interweaved pretty nicely though. (End Spoilers) A big strength of PA2 is its climax which is low on light and high on suspense.

I'd say that Paranormal Activity 2 is a huge success because it didn't completely fumble the ball. It presents a nice evolution in terms of its found footage style and there's no shortage of scary moments even if a lot of them end up being simple jump scares. They're extremely effective jump scares though because of the patience that goes into building them up. PA2 isn't quite the film that its predecessor is, but it's not far off.



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