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Film Review: Paranormal Activity 2

Posted on by sam

Paranormal Activity 2

Director: Tod Williams (2010)

If you’ve read my review of Paranormal Activity, Gold Star! If not, and this isn’t intended to substitute for the enjoyment that can be gleamed from reading such a well-crafted review, here’s a quick summary; I found the original Paranormal Activity brilliant and terrifying. I also ended the review by describing my glorious self as 50/50 on whether I wanted to see the sequel. This changed after I found myself ranting about what made a scary film to one of my unfortunate, possibly radiated housemates. Convolutedly, the Paranormal Activity franchise came up, and low it was so, that we sat down together to watch the second instalment.

So Paranormal Activity 2 is……………Oh wait, first, let me tell you how we laughed at the early scenes of a family functioning through dysfunction, moaned as the family began to unwittingly egg-on the presence starting to infest their house, became confused as characters we understood to be dead began to appear in the living, debated the idea of part 2 acting as a sort of prequel to the first film, expressed our unease as events began to take increasingly sinister turns and finally wet ourselves as the demonic being wreaked havoc. We both spent the night pretty unsettled, and my housemate now laments these films as being ‘bad for people’s heads’.

So Paranormal Activity 2 is………. Oh wait, let me tell you about how a post-viewing conversation over washing up concluded with an informal strategy for dealing with possible future paranormal activity in our own home, which goes as follows: ‘If you’ve captured that shit on video, fucking show the world, get experts in, and don’t just rely on a maid!’ Sound strategy, one that I truly hope you, dear reader, never have to take.

So Paranormal Activity 2 is…………….Oh, we also discussed the merits of the prequel nature of the third instalment, and whether or not the franchise could, nay should be continued.

So, Paranormal Activity 2 is…………….. Oh wait, let me, err, err,

Ok, I’ve meandered around this thing enough, is Paranormal Activity 2 good? Yes, is it tense and scary? Yes, is it as good as the original Paranormal Activity, no! There’s a difficult line all sequels tread, because they’ll inevitably be compared to the original, in some cases they’ll surprise you in how much of an improvement they are, (White Noise; The Light), or they’ll take the franchise down a different route (Aliens), or they’ll just say fuck it, aiming to act as little more than filler, with the artistic merit of a British Nation Party paid political broadcast, because, let’s face it, if the original is any good, you’ll pay for the name alone, (See pretty much every Disney sequel ever bar Return of Jafar).

Paranormal Activity 2, hereby PA2, is none of these; instead it tries to be the most common type of sequel, one that simply rehashes the events of the original, while giving the plot further explanation, or holes, depending on how good the storytelling is. This isn’t necessarily a bad approach; results of a monumental scale can be produced (See Terminator 2 Judgement Day), but in this case, sadly, no. What we get is pretty much just the original with a few extra characters thrown in. The plot revolves around the sister of the original female lead Katie, and both Katie and Micah make repeat appearances, which is nice for them but kind of takes away from Micah’s brutal death at the end of the first one. Oh, have you not seen the original, just thought you’d read this review eh, ruined it for you have I, well too fucking bad Sean!

If your name’s Sean, I hope you’re a little freaked out right now! Back to the review, there are some nice elements, there’s a logical progression to using multi-camera’s which frees the action and means PA2 isn’t as reliant on shaky handy cam as its predecessor, and the characterisation is nice, the acting is top notch, and there are some genuinely shocking moments.

But that’s the problem, the shocks are there, but gone is the eeriness and tension that permeated through my very soul when I watched the original. I’ve seen everything in PA2 already. In PA, whenever the camera clock counted down, my heart raced as I waited to see if an indiscriminate sound was going to occur from somewhere off camera or demonic footsteps were going to appear on the floor next to the victim’s bed. In PA2 the clock system is dwindled to insignificant status. Not aiming to reinvent its own proverbial wheel then, PA2 instead seeks to extend on the cannon of the franchise and provide a framework for why events in the original transpired. They don’t do a bad job of it actually, mostly it makes sense, or at least as much sense as you can make when your characters don’t flee from a house in terror as soon as one of them becomes possessed, but this was most definitely NOT what the original needed. I didn’t need to know great details about what was happening, in fact, the broadest of summaries, a demon is obsessed with Katie, sufficed nicely. Instead now, the obsession aspect is dwindled, and the demon is relegated from supernatural perverted stalker, to, well, a pissed off son of a bitch with a grudge.

There’s a third one, which, as my housemate will confirm, I correctly predicted would be a prequel to this one, it’s set in the eighties apparently, and if I was 50/50 about seeing this instalment, I’m 20/80 about seeing another one. It’s all starting to reek, just a bit, of fanboyishness and SAWism. Stuff happens, because a certain section of the audience like that stuff happening, rather than for storyline or artistic merit. I’m told it explains why PA2 (and therefore PA itself) happened, I need a bigger hook than that, as I said, I know enough already, my interest lays in what’s happening, and the less that’s explained, the more terrified I’ve been.

I’m not ending this review without calling PA2 a good film, it is, it really really really is, it’s just not as good as its predecessor, which it seems to realise. It’s like the cool girl at school, who can’t quite get out her old sisters shadow, so she gets annoyed and decides the best way to put her sister down is a policy of mutual destruction where she reads her sisters diary to her friends, sure it makes her sister look bad, but it also loses her some of her friends trust, then lets me do her up the arse.

Written By Sam ‘Sexual Frustration is a disease’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

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