Notable Cast: Katie Featherson, Brian Boland, Sprague Grayden, Molly Ephraim
Review: I loved the original Paranormal Activity. To date, it’s easily in my Top 5 horror movies of all time. So when news of a sequel hit shortly after the overnight success of the original, I was swarmed with mixed emotions. On one hand, having a team determined to push the boundaries even farther and top what Paranormal Activity already accomplished sounded fantastic. But on the other hand, rushing out a sequel could result in recycled garbage trying to cash in on the Paranormal Activity name. Add the fact that lead actress Katie Featherson was announced to be returning for the sequel (if you saw the original you’d understand why this could be upsetting), and it started sounding worse and worse. But with original director Oren Peli staying on as producer to guide director Tod Williams (The Door In The Floor), hope stayed alive that the team could concoct another horrifying event that kept even the strongest of wills awake multiple nights. That’s right, I couldn’t sleep for nights and jumped at even the slightest sound in my pitch black room. Paranormal Activity 2 not only saved itself with the clever integration of Katie to the story, but doubling as a prequel made the follow-up to the indie-horror phenomena Paranormal Activity one of the greatest and most inventive horror sequel/prequels to date.
Paranormal Activity 2 is a “released footage” movie and a follow-up to the original that captures the terrifying haunting of a small suburban family. Dan (Boland), Christi (Grayden), Ali (Ephraim), baby Hunter, and their dog Abby have been experiencing what they think are “break ins,” so they decide to set up a series of security cameras around the house that give them multiple angles of major activity areas. Christi has a strange feeling though, because nothing is missing from the house and the events seem more like malicious acts of destruction than burglars. She talks to her sister KATIE FEATHERSON about the events they experienced as children and how the same feelings are resurfacing, but Katie begs her to leave them in the past and ignore what could be happening now. Her husband Dan also writes off every instance to coincidence, offering no support to her wife’s supernatural beliefs. But when the camera catches some not so normal visuals, Christi can’t help but believe what haunted her as a child is back for some new reason. Paranormal Activity 2 proposes the question of how do you stop what you can’t see, can’t understand, or can’t even believe?
Since a lot of the movie relies on suspense and surprise, I’ll keep this review as spoiler free as possible for those who have not seen the film yet. But just let me say, Paranormal Activity 2 was just as genre busting as the first, but this time for different reasons. I was equally as scared coming into this movie, even though I knew what to expect to a degree. Yes, PA2 used the same technique of the first person camera point of view, so the styles of chills and scares is completely expected based on the original. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but sink down into my seat every time the Night scene title cue appeared because yeah, I knew exactly what was coming. And if it scared the beejesus out of me the first time, why wouldn’t it do the same the second time around? But don’t expect the same carbon-copy “nighttime comes, time for an occurrence” kind of attitude. This is where PA2 amped up the intensity for the second time around. I promise PA2 will keep you on your toes at all times, and it establishes the attitude that ANYTHING can happen at ANYTIME. So while you’re already expecting the usual jump scares and camera tricks, PA2 is fully aware of your expectations and knows exactly how to turn them into a new breed fear.
Where the movie also succeeds is in its presentation as a prequel as well as sequel. Again, I will make this as vague as possible as to not spoil any surprises, but it was wonderful enough to comment on. Obviously, with the presence of Paranormal Activity victim Katie and her relation to Christi, there is a blatant tie. The story doesn’t just stick to PA2 though, and makes great bounds in making PA have more of a focused and definitive plot. It adds a ton more substance to the first film, and takes it from being a random occurrence to a string of events that tie the two movies neatly together with an utterly horrific bow. This was no rushed effort, and where PA succeeded in terror, PA2 succeeds more in its well crafted and intelligent plot that used the original material brilliantly, as well as advancing the plot of PA2 and the franchise as a whole.
Expect a lot of the same on the acting front as well. The cast of PA2 again delivers realistic characters that take the Hollywood aspect out of the film, and make it a more believable documentary (besides the fact that it’s only a movie of course). Some people find this hokey and fake, yet for me all the actors kept me in the atmosphere of the film by their human reactions to the haunting were the reason: be it either disbelief and humor, attraction, or fear.
So, my prayers were answered, and Paranormal Activity 2 turned out to be a worthy sequel to one of the scariest films I have ever seen. I can watch every slasher horror film you can throw at me and be able to detach it from reality in a heartbeat. Yet you show me some doors shutting and blankets moving, and I can’t sleep for nights. Paranormal Activity 2 gladly takes the torch from the original, delivering equally as many worth while scares while adapting a new style of delivering them. The numerous cameras make it possible to follow the victims while they are being tormented, instead of just watching one particular point of view. It adds more interest and depth to the film, showing you exactly what the demon is up to instead of just hearing noises off-screen. Don’t expect to be turned on to the franchise by the sequel though, because PA2 is much more a movie for the fans of the original than a new story to entice new viewers. I also advise not viewing this film before seeing the first, because so many things will be spoiled. The obvious question now is, can a Paranormal Activity 3 be as gracefully made? I have a feeling we’ll be finding out next year…
Final rating: 8 more sleepless nights out of 10