Review: Not Much Activity in Paramount's Paranormal Activity 2
by Jeremy Kirk
October 23, 2010
The general idea behind a sequel, particularly a horror sequel, is the word "more". More scares. More characters. More of what the original film had to offer but usually on a bigger scale and with heightened stakes. Paranormal Activity 2 certainly has the "more characters" part down pat. The first film, a motion picture phenomenon that has essentially launched a new franchise, involved two people in a house trying to deal with the things that go bump in the night. With this sequel, there's a whole family of four, and a nanny, who are hearing strange noises and feeling the eerie presence of something not quite right. Unfortunately, that's exactly where "more" ends with Paranormal Activity 2, and the scares just end up being refurbished shockers that have already been used, sometimes even before they were used in this film's predecessor.
The family at the heart of Paranormal Activity 2 is related to the couple from the first film. You see, this film is, in essence, a prequel. The mother of this family is also the sister of Katie, the girl from the first Paranormal Activity who is being "stalked" by a demon. Evidently, a few months before he moved on to big sis, he had his eyes set on this family's baby. After an apparent break-in, the family has a security camera installed in a six rooms of the house, just enough differing vantage points to capture any strange goings on that might occur and that might deliver scares to the film's audience.
From the start, with an opening that quite nicely establishes each of the five main characters in Paranormal Activity 2 (as well as reintroduces us to the two leads from the first), the film, directed by Tod Williams, seems satisfied with long moments of very little happening. Lights flip on and off by themselves. Doors open and close by themselves. The pool's vacuum cleaner spider-crawls up the side of the pool and out. You know. Really terrifying things. The first hour and probably well into the rest of the film's 90 minutes are devoted to these standard, ghost story antics. Basically, you watch the film cut from the different rooms each night the activity occurs (all in the same pattern, too, an idea that gets annoying quickly) waiting for something in either the background or the foreground to unnerve you in your seat. Very little does.
The sheer anticipation of the scares is something that works in the film's earlier moments. You watch each shot, observing everything in the room. You might even think you see something in the background moving, but you realize it's just a leaf moving from the wind. It isn't until the scene cuts to morning that you rest easier, having only had to experience a slight bump or that damn pool cleaner acting all hokey. With each passing night, though, the nerves become more and more confident, so that when something really does happen, it's more of a relief that you're actually watching a horror movie instead of basic security footage.
Maybe this idea of unnerving is what Williams and crew were going for. Unfortunately, the pacing of the film is way off, and, once those real scares start to take place, they aren't even all that scary. Sure, the idea of a baby being pulled backward by his feet in his crib is creepy, but then cut to a shot of the baby with his back pressed against the inside of the crib as if he's performing a floating magic trick. It's unintentional humor at its worst, and it just looks awkward. The idea of a woman being pulled by some unseen force by her feet down a hallway is terrifying.
Remember how scary that was in Paranormal Activity? That concept is back, but it's enhanced by CG and so overblown that the simplicity of it has gone out the window. And, sadly, that seems to have been the idea going into Paranormal Activity 2. "Remember that scary thing we showed you in the first film? Well, here it is again." A few scares work well, ones that won't be revealed here for obvious reasons, but they are few and far between and they never stay with you nearly as much as most of the scares from the first film.
Screenwriter Michael R. Perry does a decent job incorporating the characters from the first film. Realizing early on that this is a prequel to Paranormal Activity keeps you guessing just how it ties into the events of that film. Sadly, it also takes away from the first film. Certain things are explained that should have been left a mystery, and that is really the biggest problem prequels seem to have. For some reason, everything has to be explained. The people behind these films seem to think the audience who was so terrified by their first film needs to have a reasoning behind everything, and that's simply not true. The worst thing a sequel/prequel/follow-up of any kind can do is make the predecessor less effective. That is precisely what is done by the time the story in Paranormal Activity 2 unfolds completely.
The execution is awkward, as well. The idea of going back and forth between security footage and handheld footage isn't jarring, so it's got that going for it, but the choice of when to use what is very odd. Handheld footage is used during simple conversations, which raises two questions. Why was one of the people in the conversation filming it, and why didn't the director just have the audience see the conversation from the security camera's vantage point? It's the worst problem found footage films have, the idea of why is that character still filming this? By the time Paranormal Activity 2's "harrowing" climax occurs, it has devolved into The Blair Witch Project in a haunted house. Just don't go into the basement. Oh, look, you did that, too.
Paranormal Activity 2 is a lot of been-there-done-that, a flat haunted house story that seems satisfied with resting on the things that go bump in the night and not pushing the horror envelope any further than it has to. At one point, after a door has slammed behind a character, the father of the family says something to the effect of, "it must have been the wind." It wasn't the wind. It was a sigh of desperation from the film's audience that something, anything truly terrifying was about to occur. Keep sighing, audience. Maybe the collective gushes of air can push the family out of the house and out of Paranormal Activity 2 for good.
Jeremy's Rating: 4 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 46 Comments
This was much more scarier than the first one! I liked it!
Ann on Oct 23, 2010
This review is right on, spend your money on the DVD of this first film. Buy some popcorn, turn out the lights and relive the terror once again. Just don't plan on sleeping afterwards.
Ross on Oct 23, 2010
I must say I completely disagree with your comments Jeremy. I found Paranormal Activity 2 even more frightening than the first. I would even say I liked it better than the first.
Christine on Oct 23, 2010
I don't know if this one was scarier than the first, but I definitely liked it a little better. I thought it was great how you could piece together all the little things that fit from this movie into the first one. I thought it added to the original, kinda making it more than just a spooky, scary movie. It could've just been a redo of the original just with the gimmick of more cameras, a dog, and a baby but instead it contributes to the story and stuff. Made me want another movie (Another good movie, that is.)
Da Man on Oct 23, 2010
meh i'll still see it, just to say i did
Jericho on Oct 23, 2010
This was the scariest movie I have ever seen,....Paranormal Activity I was the second scariest!
Brian on Oct 23, 2010
I thought the 2nd one had more scares, meaning sudden bursts of sounds (I think you all know what scene I'm talking about, with a sudden outburst of sound and activity). But it definitely didn't have the "Creepy" vibe as the first one, where there were more subtle vibes, this is more current "mainstream" scare tactics, loud noises and such. And obviously, more people are going to enjoy it because this type of "horror" is mainstream for a reason. The woman being dragged was funny, because of how it was shot, it definitely lasted too long, I think she should have been dragged at a different location, because honestly, 20 seconds of her being dragged will turn any horror into a comedy lol. Although when she was dragged to her destination and the door closed, THAT part was good. It's just all of the dragging that lead up to it, was a bit unnecessary. I agree with your review, but I think that it's rather harsh. Considering how I completely expected this to tank in terms of horror compared to the first one.
danielvutran on Oct 23, 2010
paranormal activity 1 & 2 are the shit. lets see YOU make a movie BETTER and/or scarier than these. you suck Jeremy. maybe instead of looking for flaws, you should just sit back, and have a good scare. be fair with reviews. dont just be all negative. it was an amazing movie..you cant deny that. and yeah it might have those "been there done that"...still what other ideas, that will make this look possible in a realistic sort of way, could they come up with to get the audiences attention? there isnt. all the other ideas for a good scare have been used with the other types of horror movies. you cant have one movie with all the ideas in it. then it would make all the other movies look like a rip off. so they might have used one idea that was used in blair witch, but you have to admit..it was fucking epic.
dontexpectanything on Oct 23, 2010
I thought the first movie was very slow, and being a fan of horror and thrillers, at about the half way mark I was just begging for bloodshed, a demonic possesion or at least some visible torture...just something more visually interesting that still camera's of anticipation then nothing, and the ending, so bad!! The second one was even more annoying as it hammed up scenes as though something full on might happen similar the the first, and then nothing ever does, similar to the first...just more of the same unresolved tension - I was expectign something a bite more clever, a few shocks, a bit more creepy....the directors trick of building anticipation just doesnt cut it after about 3 scenes...we are not so gullible every single time surely...just gave me a headache and a desire to watch The Omen or The Excorsist and enjoy a bit more theatrical scare.
sisseli on Oct 23, 2010
a lot of people are saying that its a "been there done that" film but obviously it is, if you think of it as 1 long film, it has the same characters plus extras which is a bonus, of course the "demon" is going to be doing the same sort of ghosty going ons to the family in PA2 as in PA1, overall i enjoyed it if you werent dissapointed by the 1st 1 then the 2nd wont either
strangethingsahappenin on Oct 23, 2010
i find it scary that people actually think this type of film is scary.
Happy Camper on Oct 23, 2010
what 11 said. i thought the 1st one was a comedy
lego on Oct 23, 2010
Jeremy stop doing reviews please D:
AsumagryStash on Oct 23, 2010
I recently broke down to the hype and rented the first Paranormal Activity. I watched it with my father-in-law and mother-in-law. We had the lights turned off and the surround sound turned up. To say the least, after this movie was over I felt like I had just wasted a small portion of my life that I can never get back. It. Was. BORING. I am honestly completely taken aback that a sequel was even released. I hope this is the end of the Paranormal Activity movies.
Billy on Oct 23, 2010
Number 8, I believe any person with a brain and a handful of horror stories from people who have had paranormal encounters could make a realistic horror movie better than the people who made Paranormal Activity.
Billy on Oct 23, 2010
Jeremy is spot on here. If you are a fan of these films, you need to get out more and see some REAL found footage films. Films like REC, REC2, 8213: Gacy House", and there are plenty of other non-paranormal found footage films. The PA films are lame. Any true horror fan knows this though.
Scott on Oct 23, 2010
I couldn't agree more. I am a total mark and I love to be scared and these movies were just lame. I am still trying to regain my equilibrium after watching the bouncy footageand wondering why a rogue pool cleaner is scary.
Kerri on Oct 23, 2010
I thought the movie was clever and good. I thought that the way they tied it into the first was was very smart. While a may have been similar to other movies...what movies aren't! People repeat all the time but as long as the audience is on the edge of the seat then the moviemakers did their job right. Yes of course there will be better more realistic movies but give the movie a break, i think it did its job as a horror or suspense movie. It made people jump and scream and it entertained.
Jorel on Oct 24, 2010
I liked the movie, although not as much as I liked the first one. The crowd of people I watched the movie with laughed more often than anything tonight unlike the first movie where everyone was on edge the whole time. I'm guessing that when you see something once, it's not as scary the second time you see it. That's the way I felt today when watching the movie. But I still jumped at times. Scott, Did you really just mention '8213: Gacy House' in a list of good movies? Shame on you. That movie good in any way, shape or form.
Josh on Oct 24, 2010
Scary? puurrllleaseeeeeeeee.. Fall asleep? yes! I'd have more scares clipping my toenails.
hgj on Oct 24, 2010
I liked the 2nd one better than the 1st tbh...from beginning to end it was more interesting..i love the way they pieced everything together from the 1st one...without throwing any spoilers out I can't WAIT to see where they go with the 3rd one...this one opened up SO many avenues that they can go in the next installment
Key on Oct 24, 2010
@8 with you!!! Well done this guy sucks always bad reviews never says anything positive
none134 on Oct 24, 2010
I thought when the pink unicorns started to attack was the scariest part of being on the ship. I in no way would have put the jetpack on in hyper-space just to find out that my sister was in on the whole thing. Plus why was the dragon holding the magical staff of OZ? I think if they had just let hte hobbits lose, they would have conqured the world! Thats just my 2 cents! 🙂
jvj590 on Oct 24, 2010
I completely disagree with this review. I thought the second was scarier than the first and made me jump a few times, I didn't even really find the first that scary. I've found out that everyone that didn't get scared during this movie, were the ones trying to avoid being scared and hating on everything instead of enjoying it.
A_well91 on Oct 24, 2010
I completely agree with the review. I still liked Paranormal Activity 2, but it felt like too much of a retread. There were a couple effective scares, but for the most part I was just thinking "I've already seen this... and seen it done better." The problem here was I didn't really feel anything or care about the characters in this movie. The first movie had a lot of development so I was a lot more invested in what was going to happen. It also didn't help that most of the audience laughed at the smaller scares when I saw PA2 in the theater. Really took away from the film. But I gotta admit, either way, both made my hair stand on end and if a PA3 comes out, I'll probably watch that too.
Rops on Oct 24, 2010
There is no need to complain about the review...its an opinion and his opinion was negative so thats what he wrote. Personally i felt the last 10 minutes was great but the rest was just setup after setup of noises to make you jump
abcdefg on Oct 24, 2010
What's funny is how many of these comments are from the same people, but with different name.
danielvutran on Oct 24, 2010
I enjoyed this one way better from the first. Theres something about a foreign presence in your house that freaks me out. I suppose having had that sort of experience makes these movies scary for me.
Lahirry on Oct 24, 2010
This movie sucked 1 and 2 , Blair Witch Project was better then this franchise !
kevin on Oct 24, 2010
I thought it was great and I liked how they tied the first one in.
rob on Oct 24, 2010
You just described the first movie, while review the second! neat huh
Jimmy Love on Oct 25, 2010
I laughed throughout Paranormal Activity Part One and I would imagine that Part Two will be an even better comedy.
Chris on Oct 25, 2010
I agree with Kevin that the Blair Witch Project was scarier. The heart of this issue is why it was scarier than the first. For me, anything involving children increases the "terror" factor solely based on the fact that I have younger siblings and I am a parent. Maybe it's an instinctual thing. . . who knows. But, that's was the only difference for me.
Alex O on Oct 25, 2010
These movies are not scary. You wanna see scary, try watching some foreign horror films like "Inside" or "Martyrs". People freak themselves out in their own mind when watching these films because there is nothing happening. It's just like the "ghost videos" on youtube. BOO! AH! GOTCHA! lame.
Venom on Oct 25, 2010
So, is it better to watch PA 2 then watch PA 1 after? Assuming you havent seen the first before of course.
tinman on Oct 25, 2010
Just saw it...that's 90 minutes of my life I want back. Just like Blair Witch, the scare tactics were boring at best. That being said, they got my money (sigh). That's what happens when you get bored enough to buy the ticket.
OhPlease on Oct 25, 2010
Number 16, You mention 8213: Gacy House & REC 1 & 2 as "REAL found footage films". Don´t quite understand what you mean... Gacy House and REC are as real as Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch etc. Or am I totally missing your point here? 🙂
Carl on Oct 26, 2010
I'm with you #36, I want my 90 minutes back too! You guys should check out the Spanish flick called "Atrocious", it's better!
jah p on Oct 26, 2010
I love how people are posting they want their money back or 90 mins of their life back but if anyone expected that this movie was going to amazing or ground breaking for horror then I want some of whatever you guys are smoking. This is a movie created to appeal to the masses and die hard horror fans or die hard movie buffs are not the masses. So unfortunately we will prob see alot more of these types of movies before people get bored. I do have to say though that for some reason I enjoyed how the story tied both movies together though I think I liked it as it hopefully cuts short any chances of more sequels lol.
Kairo on Oct 27, 2010
Jeremy is right on with this review. I loved PA 1. i thoight this one would be much more scarier since they say some theatres "Banned" the PA2 thrailer from theatres because it was too scary. the scene that they showed in the trailer wasn't even in the actuall movie... WTF. i even gave PA the same4 out of 10 rating as jeremy did. I originally gave PA a rating of 9 out of 10. In response to # 22if hollywood put out a movie that was actually good instead of these damn Saw movies & comic book, TV show remakes, maybe there would be some positive things to say. keep up the great work , Jeremy.
salber on cinema on Oct 30, 2010
I would say that I totally agree with the review about this movie. PA 1 is way scarier than the prequel, in this movie you'll just have to wait for a slight scary move that might be seen in the camera and in the long run you'll just be disappointed because it did not scare you at all.
Sandra Hopkins on Jan 11, 2011
This movie was the opposite of scary. There are scarier shows on cable tv... Just a really big letdown. Pa1 was sorta scary at least.
Tiffanywinters_00 on Feb 19, 2011
yh man it was evend a movie com on it was realy amateur work j just don't like the movie in the angle it was shott and scarry come one the most scary in the movie was the word august and the end a little bit ; for some p. + 6 lol man it was a w8st of time to go see that movie hunted house i bether
Bob on Feb 26, 2011
A baby crying in the night is not scary. It's part of life. An outside porch-light turning on is not scary. It's called a timer.
love on Mar 8, 2011
The baby on the crib was so scary. And it was like for real when the baby was getting out of the crib. It is still not convincing though. But I still want to watch more of PA movies.
Nicole Smith on Jun 7, 2011
Paranormal movie is great but not so scary i like more scary and looks like real. but its great all that i watch.
Andrea Bakurva on Jun 27, 2011
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