As always with any review I write, there’ll probably be some spoilers, so if you really don’t want me to spoil anything, you probably should stop reading right about now.
The film wasn’t really a sequel, it was actually more of a prequel. The writers of the film obviously took the time to try to make this film relatable to the original. I really dislike it when sequels have nothing to do with the original film; think of all those shitty direct to video sequels you may see at your local video store and you’ll know what I mean. Instead of following Katie and Micah from the first film, the story follows Kristi and her family after they install a set of security cameras after an apparent break in. Kristi is actually Katie’s sister, and we get to see this family deal with the same demon from the first film. And as titled, paranormal activity ensues.
I really enjoyed the pacing of this film. I felt that those who bitched about this first one being “boring” or “slow” would probably enjoy this one more. However, what I found with this one is that there was less emphasis on the atmosphere and suspense, which I thought was something that made the first one so amazing. Although the second one had a lot more jump scares and a lot more moments where I jumped out of my seat or held my breath, there was something missing that the first one had. I remember with the first one feeling like I was sinking in my seat at the theatre; I remember being mesmerized by the stillness of the theatre, the unanimous tension that surrounded me. I came out of the last one feeling frightened and I had a sense of dread. While this one was frightening, I didn’t get that sensation from the first one. Although, that may be attributed to two things: first, I have become a lot more desensitized to horror films in general, and it takes more to really frighten me anymore. Additionally, there were a lot of annoying patrons at the theatre, most of which were in their young teens, and they just really ruined the atmosphere. There were a lot of obnoxious idiots who were laughing at inappropriate moments, whether it was because they wanted to pretend they weren’t scared, or the fact that they weren’t scared and wanted to be assholes about it.
The film kept the aesthetic of the original film, while still trying to change things up a bit. The cinematography changes between the house’s security cameras to the family’s handheld camera. I enjoyed the fact that for a large portion of the film the strange happenings weren’t the family’s key focus, as they didn’t really notice things were happening right away. Also, I think the large increase of the budget really contributed to seem really neat effects that helped to change the scares in this film. One that really creeped me out was the baby, Hunter, being levitated out of his bed.
Paranormal Activity 2 was different enough to be entertaining and new, but familiar enough so that fans of the franchise could enjoy it. There are some complaints I have about this film, however.
What I really enjoyed about the first film was the experience I had while at the theatre, as I had previously mentioned. This really has to do a lot with the atmosphere of the first film: there was a lot more suspense and tension with the film, and it constantly makes you wait for something to happen. That anticipation is what made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, for the slightest out-of-place movement to send chills down my spine. This film started with the scares much earlier into the film, and much more frequently. And though I enjoyed them, the lack of suspense and the increase of jump-scares actually made the film less frightening for me. I find that when I’m left to imagine and hypothesise what will happen next, my imagination fills in the details.
Also, while I enjoyed how this film “raise the stakes” by adding more characters to be involved, and more innocent characters to be affected by the paranormal activities (aka the baby, Hunter, and the german Shepard, Abby), I also thought it was a bit of a hindrance. I didn’t think any of the characters where necessarily annoying or badly written, I just found that they were forgettable. Part of the first film that was really great in my opinion was the development of the two main characters, Micah and Katie. There were two other characters in the first one, and that’s it. The first film took the time to develop the protagonists, to bring in conflict, to make you either like or dislike them – the film made you feel like you knew them. And when the tension and the drama built up, you were really concerned for these characters, making the ending so terrifying and unsettling.
That brings me to the ending of this film. As I had stated earlier, the second film is basically a prequel; it brings back elements from the first one and tries to tie everything in together. Long story short: it is revealed that somewhere down in Kristi/Katie’s bloodline, a deal with a demon is made for wealth, and for payment, the first-born son would need to be taken. Well apparently there had been no boys born into the family until Kristi’s son, Hunter, so now the demon is here to collect the baby. Near the end, Kristi’s husband finds a way to “transfer” the demon to Katie, to save his son and his wife who becomes possessed near the end of the film. The process is a success, and as this portion of the film ends, we see the first few moments of the original film played. The movie cuts to the date whereupon Katie from the first film kills Micah as she is possessed by the demon; we see the husband watching tv, and Katie ominously stands from afar, watching. She then snaps his neck, walks up stairs, throws Kristi into the camera (money shot, anyone?), and takes Hunter, and leaves. And that’s the end of the film.
I have a few problems with this ending. I didn’t mind how it showed where Katie went immediately after the end of the first film, that’s not my issue. I felt the ending was very rushed, and because of that, it was extremely anti-climatic. Yes, it was very frightening to see her standing in their home, covered in Micah’s blood. But there was no build-up to this moment. After the demon gets transferred, I felt as though the tension kind of dissipated, and was left feeling a bit unfulfilled as it tried to jump right back into the suspense of the story. And I also felt that it was trying too hard to be like the ending of the original film. Part of what really scared me from the first film’s ending is for one, Katie standing besides Micah for hours, watching him sleep. Then off-screen we hear a very terrifying scream, and even more disturbing sounds as Micah runs off to help her. And then it cut off, and there was silence, and as the footsteps became louder up the stairs, you can feel the fear of what has happened build up inside you. That was the one element from all three endings of the original film that was the same, the off-screen screaming, and the silence that ensued. The second film had a large amount of cameras, so we actually get to see the disturbing action of what happened. I believe it is far more effective for the audience to see less sometimes, because what we don’t see can be more frightening. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind the ending, but it definitely wasn’t as good as the first film, and it wasn’t nearly as effective.
Another note I wanted to add was that I didn’t really enjoy how they explained the whole demon “back-story” so to say. I kind of like it when things that are dark and disturbing have no explanation in films – it’s what makes it more frightening. Although, it was nice that there was continuity. Oh, and as another thing that kind of annoyed me was that there were a bunch of scenes from the trailers and viral videos that didn’t make it into the film. That happens a lot in films, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Out of all the films I’ve watched for my reviews so far, this is the one I’m most torn about. While I found Paranormal Activity 2 to be entertaining, I’m still left feeling like it was missing something. The first film had me up all night, sitting on my couch, afraid to go to bed. This one didn’t feel nearly as terrifying, and I actually slept quite well the night that I saw it. And yes, the audience probably had a huge part to play in this, as I was really distracted by the idiots around me (not my friends, though, we’re awesome). I don’t regret seeing this film in theatres – and I would have paid to see it too (thank you Scene for giving me a free movie!). For any fans of the original, I think most of you will enjoy it, I will say that I don’t think it’s as good as the original, but it definitely holds up. For those who hated the first film, this one may be more to your liking, however, it is similar enough to the original that you may just want to rent it. For those who haven’t seen the first – see the first, if not to get a better understanding and feel for this film, but for the sheer fact that it is a good film and better than this one. I think as a sequel/prequel of a very well done film, this one is a nice addition. Though it doesn’t surpass the original, it exceeded my expectations, as I expected it to really suck.
ScareMeter: 4/5 “Throwing your popcorn in the air, cowering beside your friend, kind of startles”
Overall Movie Rating: 3.5/5
Extra: I just watched a “Bum Reviews” from thatguywiththeglasses.com that does a hilarious quick review of this film. If you don’t mind spoilers, or have seen the film, definitely check it out. It’s about 2 minutes long if that, and it’s freaking hilarious. Check it out here!