Afraid of the Dark – Paranormal Activity 2

If you weren’t scared by the first Paranormal Activity, then the second movie really isn’t going to do anything for you. If, like me, the things that go bump in the night make your stomach tie up in knots faster than you can say “late night kebab on the tiles”, then you might get a thrill out of Paranormal Activity 2.

Paranormal Activity 2 is a prequel to the original movie, taking up the tale of Katie’s sister: Kristi, mother to newborn baby Hunter. Shortly after Hunter’s arrival, the home is ransacked; nothing has been taken apart from a necklace that was gifted to Kristi by Katie, but furniture has been overturned, drawers opened, and there is no sign how the vandals got in. Similar to Micah’s solution of setting up his video camera to capture the strange nightly occurences happening to Katie, husband Dan hires a security company to install a number of hidden cameras around their home to capture future vandals in the act.

This review contains really minor spoilers, but assumes you’ve seen the first movie.

The second movie uses the same tension-building techniques, long static shots of darkness waiting for something to happen. Although it was a slow build-up in the first movie, it worked, because when the demonic shit started going down, it was worth the wait. Paranormal Activity 2, however, suffers from the knowledge of what we’re waiting for on those dark and uneventful nights, and instead seems drawn out, leaving me feeling quite impatient waiting for the haunting to kick in as the cameras cycle through the same entrance-pool-lounge-kitchen-stairs sequence.

The demon feels less intense – for want of a better word – than it did in the first movie. Perhaps it is understandable that the demon escalated in ferocity over time, but it feels unsatisfying to follow-up a frightening movie with a less scary antagonist. There is also a feeling of “been there, done that” as the demon’s one big attack is the same as the first movie, so this one lacks some punch. And missing are the little touches of horror, like the abandoned ouija board catching fire in the first movie, or the talc-powder tracks on the floor. This is not to say that the movie isn’t still frightening, it just lacks a lot of the surprise and immersion of the original.

Rotten Tomatoes offers this succinct summary: “Paranormal Activity 2 doesn’t cover any new ground, but its premise is still scary.”

Another factor detracting from the immersion was the plot. Writing prequels that weren’t already in the mind of the author when the original was made is fraught with continuity pitfalls. Micah makes a guest appearance in Paranormal Activity 2, with a cute tie-in of him admiring the other family’s camcorder and commenting on getting one of his own. But, once he has been told something of the strange events happening to Kristi and Dan, it seems utterly strange that his reaction to Katie’s haunting never mentioned Kristi.

I had been told the day before about Paranormal Activity 2 being a sequel to the first movie, but my mother – who also saw the first movie with me – did not know this, and she was confused both by the timeline of the movie, and by the time jump near the end (where the original movie would be inserted). There are small markers, things that might be too easily missed, that are critical to the story that really would have benefited from expansion. Katie and Kristi’s mother, and the fire, are mentioned again, but still without any kind of exposition about what actually happened, or how it might relate to current events beyond “weird stuff that happened”. It feels like there was a lot of wasted potential in storyline.

Paranormal Activity 2 is tension filled, and delivers on the loud bangs to make you jump. It’s no where near as tight or nail-biting as the original, but I can’t wait for the pirated mash-up that splices the original in between the book-ends provided by the new movie. There’s a marathon movie I’d love to watch.

Paranormal Activity 2

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~ by ghostwolfe on October 26, 2010.

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