Paranormal Activity 2
The normal inclination when making a sequel is to just make more of the same – after all, if people liked it the first time, they’ll still like it a second time, right?. Paranormal Activity 2 does do that, but it also manages to expand upon its predecessor’s story, acting as both a prequel and (for a couple of minutes at least) a sequel. It delivers more of the same things that made its predecessor enormously popular, while still managing to avoid seeming stale. It even manages to find a little bit of mythology, hinting at the reason why the demon has chosen these particular victims.
This time around, the hauntees are Kristi (Sprague Graydon) , the previously-unseen sister to Katie; her husband Daniel; step-daughter Ali; and newborn son Hunter. After an apparent break-in one day, Daniel orders a new security system, with multiple cameras, motion sensors, night vision, and a DVR to back it all up on. Unfortunately for the family, more cameras doesn’t mean more security – it just means we’ve got a better seat to their horror.
As in the first film, the haunting starts with the little stuff: each night, the light in the pool goes out, and the next morning, the automated pool cleaner has been taken out of the pool. When nobody’s looking, the mobile over Hunter’s crib starts itself. Pretty soon, things start to escalate, and Hunter’s nanny, Martine, is spraying incense around the house, hoping to stave off whatever’s happening. Ali soon starts to suspect that she’s right and begins researching ghosts and demons. Ultimately, Martine’s paranoia gets her fired by Daniel, who just thinks she’s overreacting to nothing. Unfortunately, he’s wrong. The hauntings get progressively stronger, culminating in a finale that’s horrifying on multiple levels.
To its credit, Paranormal Activity 2 manages to milk plenty of great scares out of the format. While most of the movie is filmed through the stationary security cameras, it does sometimes switch to the family’s camcorder, but those scenes are no less effective. There’s one scene where the hand-held camera is used especially well: one character, holding the camera, looks away for a second, and when they turn back, the person they were looking at has disappeared from the room. The brilliance of the scene is that the layout of the room – which we’ve seen plenty of times already in the movie – allows for them to leave through a second door, go through the connecting bathroom, and out another bedroom, and pop up behind the camera, but there’s no reason for that to happen that isn’t scary as hell.
In a way, it’s fitting that the burgeoning Paranormal Activity franchise may be the final nail in the coffin of the Saw franchise. Could competing horror movies be any more different? While the Saw movies are all about over-the-top set-pieces, graphic violence and showing you everything, Paranormal gets many of its scares out of the little stuff: objects moving seemingly on their own, sudden noises in the dark, and the audience’s natural fear of the unknown. They are, simply, a cinematic version of the haunted house, and a pretty damned effective one at that. It isn’t often that a quickly-made sequel gets rushed through production and still manages to be any good. I guarantee that there are some moments in this movie where you will be scared right off of your seat. And really, isn’t that all we want from a horror movie?