Paranormal Activity 2 is actually not entirely a sequel; it spends most of its running time as a prequel, and then provides more closure on the original film. That's a novel approach, I'll admit. This time around, the story follows the family of Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Daniel Rey (Brian Boland), which includes Kristi's step-daughter, Ali (Molly Ephraim), and their baby boy, Hunter.
|Bad news, kid. Something is obviously going to happen to your parents.|
|Peeing in the pool is not a solution|
So how does this tie into the first film? Well, Kristi is the sister of Katie from the original movie. Katie and her boyfriend, the obnoxious Micah, have a few scenes in this movie, including a stretch where the first couple of minutes from Paranormal Activity are actually spliced into Paranormal Activity 2. Basically, this story shows how the demon wound up terrorizing Katie and Micah and what happened next. That's a solid concept, right? Well, I thought so.
I also liked the characters in Paranormal Activity 2 better than in the original. Sure, Daniel is a bit of a jackass, but he's not constantly annoying like Micah. I also liked the addition of a third character to the mix, even if Ali was far too pleasant around her parents to be believed. The acting was pretty decent all around, but this type of movie doesn't spend much time with the acting, so neither will I.
|A teenager that likes being filmed by her father? Fiction!|
With an interesting premise and pretty likable characters, it would seem that Paranormal Activity 2 would be as good or better than the first movie. It is not.
For starters, this film operates with the understanding that it is just assembled from "found" footage, taken from security cameras and home videos. In the first film, there was a reason for them to be videotaping everything; well, two reasons: Micah was an annoying jackass and he wanted to capture some X-Files moments on tape. There is absolutely no reason the Rey family should record themselves this much. None. Even the most YouTube-ing tween doesn't record themselves answering the front door or doing internet research. It just feels so unnatural for these people to be videotaping stressful, emotional conversations that it ruins my suspension of disbelief. And what is wrong with this family? When you're waiting for nothing to happen, they are spending their free time...reading? Really? In America? An entire family? I love to read, but...come on, let's be realistic and show that 60" flat screen being used more than once a month.
The other problem is with the film style. Following up and tying into a movie that had a very distinctive look, it is no surprise that Paranormal Activity 2 mimics a lot of the visuals from Paranormal Activity.
|You can tell it's the sequel because it has a crib|
I don't know what director Tod Williams was thinking. The pace was so awful in this movie that I have a hard time admitting that the last twenty minutes are fairly cool. Since the actors just have to act like normal folks and the film style is dictated by the format, Williams should have been able to focus on making this as tense as possible. Instead, he opted to...well, I'm not exactly sure what he did instead. All I know is that this is nowhere near as freaky as it should be.
|This is about as much action as you'll get in PA2|
It's all well and good to criticize a movie, but could I have done any better? Absolutely. There is a point where Daniel turns the proverbial corner and decides to believe in demons. How do you protect your family from such a threat? The solution that he comes with (SPOILER ALERT: passing the demon on to Kristi's unsuspecting sister, Katie, ensuring her death) is horrifying enough to warrant being the plot device for an entire film. Here, it takes less than three minutes. If they cut twenty minutes of nothing happening from the first two-thirds of the movie, this soul-wrenching, morally destitute decision would have had the time and space to breathe and draw the audience in. Instead, we get an hour of doors opening slightly and twenty minutes of action that assumes that the audience saw the first film --- otherwise, the ending is pretty awful. And if you saw the original ending of the first film (not the theatrical one), it is an impossible ending. I was encouraged by a lot of things in this movie, but it buckled under the pressure to be the same (but different) from the more successful original. It's not awful, but it was a boring disappointment for me.
One more note: I have to admit, using the phrase "Release the Kraken" as a sexual metaphor is awesome. That is all.