Unreal Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity 2 is a movie that absolutely needed to be made. This may sound contrary to popular opinion, but know that I’m speaking purely in financial terms, rather than artistic ones. For a movie that cost $11K to make to gross over $100M in theaters, it’s a no brainer. You can cry about the sanctity of the low budget horror film all you want, but that shit is going to be commercialized and locked down immediately. Can you think of ANYthing that promises a 10,000x return on investment? Nothing else even comes close.

Now, it helps if the filmmakers can actually craft an effective film for use to watch while they bathe in our hard earned cash, and Paranormal Activity 2 does make a good go of it. This is opposed to the last few Saw films which were more or less slaps in the face to the audience.

But this format isn’t something that can, or should, be replicated. This is like watching the first movie again, it’s so similar in tone and plot. But for anyone who’s seen Paranormal Activity twice, it’s clear the majority of the effect is lost when you know what’s coming.


And we do know what’s coming, don’t we? Every quiet scene we’re just waiting for a pan to drop, a cabinet to open, a door to slam shut. And it does happen. We might not know the exact moment something goes bump in the night, resulting in a little bit of jumpy-ness, but we get the jist of it.

So who’s being terrorized this time? Well that would be the sister of Kate, the haunted girl from the first film. We soon learn that this movie is a prequel of sorts, and the majority of it takes place prior to the events of the first film, making room for a few cameos by the stars of the original, one of whom looks dynamite in a bikini top.

The family dynamic is different this time. There’s still a giant luxurious house, but now we have a mom and dad, teenage daughter, German Shepherd, a toddler and a superstitious Latina housekeeper.

After a recent break-in where the house was trashed, but nothing was taken (hmm), the family wires their house with cameras, which capture the majority of the action of the film, proving this demon really is quite the diva as it will only start doing really crazy stuff once it’s being filmed. When the situation calls for it, there’s also a handheld camera usually in possession of the high schooler. She does some internet research into ghosts once the strange happenings start taking place, and initially believes the friendly spirit, at this point merely turning on lights and making funny noises, to be a visit from her deceased mom. It’s not.

Yes, this is the malicious invisible demon from the first film, and things go from odd to terrifying quickly, as adults and babies alike are dragged by invisible forces, possessed and turned insane. The action unfolds using the “Night #” format from the first film, but I found the one-cam preferable to the security cam grid layout in this film.

Demons are climin’ in yo windows, snatchin’ yo people up.

We get to learn a bit of the “mythology” behind the series, if you can call it that, and more internet research (naturally) turns up some info about why these movies are all shot in supremely nice houses, and why the demon is so pissed off about it.

I’ll stop to note here that I can’t list any of the cast as I usually would in a film like this, because the IMDB page for this movie is blank, other than listing Kate from the first film. Perhaps this is the studio trying to keep a lid on things, in keeping with “real” aspect of it, but at this point we all know it’s a movie, come on.

I had a casting issues with the film in the form of the mom, Sprague Grayden, who I’ve seen many times before in recurring roles on Sons of Anarchy and 24. If you really are trying to keep things “authentic” you should go with an actress absolutely no one would recognize, and to see her here is a bit distracting, like watching Dexter‘s Deborah Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) get chased around by zombies in the “true story” of Quarantine.

But fundamentally, is this movie scary? Yes and no. The way it’s organized, it physically has to be a little bit tense. If you were sitting in an empty, dark room, and someone told you that a loud noise and flash of light was coming, you would sit there, tensely waiting for that moment, and you would automatically jump when it did finally happen, even if you did know that’s what you were in for.

Why hello there trailer clip that is in no way in this movie.

This movie is the same way. It’s tense, it’s decently well paced and you might jump once or twice, but it’s mostly a physical reflex rather than any real terror you feel. The first film will numb you to the tricks of this one, and you’ll have your guard up more than you did before.

Plot-wise, the film ends on a bit of an anti-climax, as early on you’ve realized this film is a lead-in to the first installment, so more or less you know the ending. The specifics of how you get there aren’t terribly original either, as anyone who’s ever watched the end of a handy-cam horror film will know that there will be a climactic scene where the camera is jostled around you can’t see shit that’s going on, accompanied by random screaming and flashes of demonic faces.

It’s not offensively bad, but it certainly doesn’t retain the mystery and the surprise of the first film, which is all that movie really had going for it. Other than that, you’re left with eighty minutes of slightly off putting events, followed by ten minutes of mayhem, and it doesn’t seem like it was worth the effort to get there.

But hey, at least it wasn’t 3D.

2 out of 5 stars

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  1. I agree, from a financial standpoint, they had to make this movie. But from an audience standpoint, the movie is a pile of horseshit. The first movie was nothing more than a 2 hour long shocker video with the stupid demon face at the end, as opposed to the original ending which was actually interesting. Of course, had they kept the original ending, this movie would never have been made…

  2. Paranormal activity: $100,000,000 B.O for something you can watch on youtube for free (screamer videos).

    Jackass 3D: $50,000,000 opening weekend for something you can watch on youtube for free (stupid people doing stupid things)

    So what’s next? Lolcats movies?

  3. I haven’t seen it yet (and won’t until it’s on DVD or I download it or something) but doesn’t the fact that it’s a prequel make the choices of the characters in the first film even more idiotic? Wouldn’t Katie mention her sister’s whole family was killed under strange circumstances (I’m just guessing at what happens here)?

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