original Paranormal Activity had a pretty definitive, hard and fast
ending. It seemed pretty much like they took the story as far as it could
Therefore, it was kind of surprising when they announced that they were
working on a sequel to the film with the same stars as the original,
particularly because – without giving the original’s ending away – neither
of the main characters seemed like they would be predisposed or even likely
able to come back for another go around.
However, that tiny little film turned into a word-of-mouth smash and
Hollywood will always place money over storytelling consistency. The movie
biz has never been shy about milking film franchises for all they are worth,
even if the filmmakers really had pretty much told the entire story that
needed to be told.
turns out that they took care of the problem of having already finished
their story by making Paranormal Activity 2 a prequel – a look at the
same characters’ lives a couple of months before the actions of the original
film (although there is a brief postscript which takes
place afterwards). Which, I suppose technically makes the original film Paranormal
Activity 2 and this one part one.
also removes a good deal of the suspense from the story – because this time
around we know for sure that they will have to survive whatever happens here
in order to experience the supernatural goings-on of the original film.
Because of this kind of obvious plotting problem, the main roles of Katie
and Micah from the first film are actually just supporting characters in the
new movie. The actual story revolves more around Katie’s sister and her
However, once again the film is supposed to be made up of a hand-held
homemade video record of normal everyday people dealing with the
course, this leaves a very basic problem with the concept of the movie.
Paranormal Activity 2 is a horror sequel and the whole instinct behind
horror sequels is to pump up the shocks from the first go around – make
everything bigger and scarier. This is rather counter-intuitive to the idea
behind Paranormal Activity, though, which relied on subtly scaring
its audience, in lo-tech ways, often off camera. Making the scares more in
your face and obvious simply undoes the hard-earned sense of unease and
dread. Paranormal Activity understood that what you don’t see is
often scarier than what you do see. Paranormal Activity 2 tends to
forget this rule.
more to the point, even though Paranormal Activity 2 can be a very
chilling film, it can simply never recapture the sheer originality and
uniqueness of the first film. That film – shot on a shoestring budget by
Oren Peli – used its own financial limitations to great effect and they were
able to sell the idea that this was indeed the found video if a couple who
became ensnared in a nefarious game with a demon.
Paranormal Activity 2
– which was not made by
Peli, by the way, though he is still on board as one of the producers – had
more money, is more slickly and perhaps professionally made, but does not
pack the visceral punch of the first. Instead, a bit of a been-there,
done-that feeling descends over the movie. It is well-done, but we’ve seen
it all before.
Also, frankly, for the most part, the characters here are not as sympathetic
as in the first one – I don’t want to say likable, because even in the first
one the character of Micah was kind of a dick. This
is particularly noticeable in a section
where the father tries to free his family of the demon and at the same time,
somewhat knowingly, sics the creature upon his sister-in-law, essentially setting up
the occurrences of the first film. It feels like a pretty gutless move and
it’s hard to root for the survival of a guy like that.
Nonetheless, Paranormal Activity 2 does have some good scares – and
adding a teen girl and a toddler to the mix does somewhat ratchet up the
prequel doesn’t live up to the first film, but if that movie whetted your
appetite for more details and backstory on what happened, Paranormal
Activity 2 does a reasonably good job of filling in some of the blanks.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: January 29, 2011.