REVIEW: Paranormal Activity 2 Is More of the Same, and Less

Movieline Score: 2

paranormal2_rev.jpgOren Peli's 2007 lo-fi horror megahit Paranormal Activity was a pleasing enough combination of clever and silly: A phony video document of a young couple's efforts to get acquainted with the "demon" that haunts their midst -- invisibly opening doors, turning lights off and on, and making rumbly middle-of-the-night noises -- Paranormal Activity had its share of oblique, creepy moments, even if the ultimate effect was about as haunting as a demon burp. Still, Peli understood the advantages of suggesting horrors rather than showing them outright. The scariest things in Paranormal Activity are the things you don't see.

In contrast, Paranormal Activity 2 is too much of a bad thing. Making a sequel and need to raise the stakes in the cheapest way? Build a movie around child and animal endangerment! Don't just show a toddler being pulled from his crib by an invisible force -- get the family dog in on the action too, because you just know the loyal creature (in this case, a German Shepherd named Abby) will do everything in her power to protect her little charge. Directed by Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor), working from a script by Michael R. Perry that features characters created by Peli, Paranormal Activity 2 sinks much lower than it needs to in order to get a rush out of us -- and in the end, the rush isn't even that great. The movie puts us through the paces with minimal payoff.

Paranormal Activity 2 opens with home-made videos of a young couple bringing their infant son home from the hospital. We meet the new mom and dad, the cute baby, the older step-sis (from dad's previous marriage) and the aforementioned family pet. We also meet the family's Hispanic housekeeper (who, natch, is the first one to cotton to the evil lurking around this little family unit), as well as the new mom's sister, Katie (Katie Featherston), who is the Katie from the first Paranormal Activity. You see, Paranormal Activity Part Deux is actually a prequel; in a few scenes we even get to see Katie's poor goner of a boyfriend, Micah, before he's brought down by that nasty demon punch.

A year goes by. Baby is one already -- can you believe it? And one day, the family returns from a trip to find the home has been ransacked, although nothing has been stolen. They install security cameras that begin recording some very strange phenomena: Tea kettles get put on the hot stove by human beings and -- brace yourself -- start whistling. The automatic pool cleaner drifts lazily around the surface of the family pool, just as -- shiver -- it's been programmed to do. Human beings go around making raucous jokes about -- Lordy me! -- who made a big stink in the bathroom.

Most of Paranormal Activity 2 is actually exceedingly ultra-normal activity. That was true of its predecessor as well, and it's part of the key to why these movies work to whatever degree that they do work: We're lulled into the routine of boring, everyday stuff, which puts us off-guard; then we jump a mile when, say, a clown doll comes alive and grabs us from under the bed.

That exact thing doesn't happen in Paranormal Activity 2, though the picture does feature one extremely effective boo! moment. But the rest of the time I just felt tortured, waiting for something bad to happen to the dog (what does happen is maybe not as bad as it could be, but it's not particularly fun, and it's never resolved) and to the 1-year-old (who, I'm afraid, doesn't get off so easy).

This sort of "suspense" may be fun for some people, but for me, it hardly makes up for enduring endless minutes of boring blue-toned surveillance video, mostly showing doors opening and closing of their own accord. There's little that's artful or even clever about Paranormal Activity 2, and unlike its predecessor, it doesn't have the stealth factor going for it. The first picture was a surprise hit -- audiences found their way to it almost by accident; it made its audience feel as if they were making their own private discovery, even if that wasn't exactly the case. But Paranormal Activity 2 is destined to make huge money not because it's particularly spooky or affecting, but just because it's there. There's nothing paranormal about it at all; it's simply business as usual.



Comments

  • NP says:

    "Making a sequel and need to raise the stakes in the cheapest way? Build a movie around child and animal endangerment!"
    Thank you, Stephanie. I really _hate_ horror movies that kill/endanger children and/or animals because it's such an obvious, cheap, manipulative way to try to scare audiences.

  • John says:

    Holy Cow!!! I was initially excited to take my wife to see Paranormal Activity. She loves books, TV series, and movies about the Paranormal, so when PA was released, I told her we'd go. Well, to make a long story short..... I've NEVER gotten more sleep in a movie than I did when we went to Paranormal Activity(now dubbed- Paranormal "Waste of" Activity!!!!) After we were done, I even went to the Theater Manager and asked for a refund, which he freely gave(credits for a different movie), which was fine with me!! I know Production Companies want to get people to come to their show, but... the Commercials promoting the movie had "ALL" of the scenes that had anything happening all together! So... If you're considering going to see "Paranormal 'waste of' Activity 2", save yourself the time and money, and just record the different versions of the promotional commercials. That should pretty much cover all the exciting/"hair raising" moments of the movie!!!
    In other words - - - "DON'T DO IT!!!!"

  • elena says:

    i wanna see it can you tell me what hapeens to that babby does any one die tell me something please

  • Sleepyhead says:

    The first one came out last year - not 2007 as the first sentence indicates. Seems like that would have been easy to check.

  • MHMMM says:

    I WAS ANXIOUS TO WATCH IT BUT NOW NOT SO MUCH..EVERYBODY SAY'S LAST YEAR ON WAS SCARY/OR THE FIRST ONE WHIXH EVER YEAR IT CAME OUT..HOWEVER I WANNA SEE IT AND WHAT THE FUSS IT ABOUT

  • Apollo Theou says:

    I loved the first one. I saw bits of the sequel and I am excited. The blend of true suspense with dread is so rare and so intelligent. There is much the big studios can learn from Paranormal Activity.

  • chelsie says:

    You are big HATER!!!! The movie is supposed to be "real" and capture realistic movements...if a tea kettle whistle is real...they captured it. The second one is wayy better than the first. It is a pre-sequal movie and in this case, the second one puts all the pieces together. Maybe you should be more open-minded and gain somewhat of an imagination.

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