Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) **1/2Directed by Tod Williams
Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)- Devoid of any fresh ideas. A whole lot of nothing leads up to an effective conclusion. **1/2 out of 5
There are ways in which one could say that Paranormal Activity is the most financially successful film of all time. With a budget of only $15,000, the movie unexpectedly went on to gross over 100 million dollars, thereby making more than a staggering 650,000% profit. It all started as an internet phenomenon with petitions to have the film shown in local theaters. With huge sellouts and long lines, this low budget horror originally on no one's radar screen started expanding, ultimately becoming a midnight movie triumph.
Those first viewers of Paranormal Activity experienced the film as it was meant to be experienced. The whole thing played out like it was found footage of a young couple terrorized by unhappy spirits inhabiting their house. There were no opening or closing credits, giving the film a vicious coldness, as if the viewers of this unknown movie stumbled upon something they shouldn't have. After it became the phenomenon it did, the intended effect wore off. People were going to a cultural event when seeing Paranormal Activity after its success solidified. No longer did it thrive as pseudo-snuff.
This tale of terror serves as a prequel of sorts to the horrors seen in the original. Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston do return, which is allowed because the movie takes place months before at least one of them dies. Katie's sister Kristi has a new baby named Hunter with Daniel, Kristi's older husband who has a teenage daughter named Ali from a previous marriage. Daniel is played by Brian Boland, and Ali is played by Molly Ephraim. Both are adequate enough, especially when judged next to the performance of Sprague Grayden who plays Kristi.
The first hour and ten minutes is completely devoid of scares. There are a few startling moments involving bangs and noises, but there's no real sense of terror precisely because there's no sense of reality whatsoever. Any feelings of dread are much more manipulative considering that this time around we're dealing with a dog and a baby in peril. Ali answers a lot of the questions that stem back to the first film by reading websites about demons who need first born infant males for sacrifice or something like that. Paranormal Activity had the guts to trust its audience to buy into the film even though we never learned why the hauntings were taking place. The sequel spends time spelling everything out, thereby leaving us with nothing whatsoever to figure out for ourselves. Also, when people take websites about demon possession seriously, it's understandable to sort of wish they'd actually be terrorized by demons if for no other reason than we would have less gullible people in the world.
Sadly, even during its few effective moments, Paranormal Activity 2 is too mindless and manufactured to merit even existing at all. With some effort, the sequel to such a phenomenon could have been a real achievement in itself. There are so many moments where we're just looking at a room through a camera waiting for something to happen. During each of these sequences, something does happen, and yet, I wonder why there couldn't have been more somethings happening. They could have subtlety textured these creepy scenes, thereby welcoming repeated viewing so the viewer could try and catch details that he or she missed the first time around. Instead, each surveillance sequence ends with only one or two obvious payoffs. Sadly, this is just another example of the cynicism and condescension behind this vapid excuse to cash in on the success of a superior sleeper sensation.