Director: Tod Williams
Cast: Molly Ephraim, Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Katie Featherston
Plot: The Rey family have their house broken into, prompting Brian Rey (Boland) to install security cameras around the house. But what if the break-in was supernatural?
For a large portion of Paranormal Activity 2, I wasn’t very impressed. It pretty much confirmed what I was expecting. A director, Tod Williams in this instance, jumped onto the cheap and effective set-up of the first Paranormal Activity and repeats. We are introduced to a new family, Katie from the first film’s sister to keep it relevant, and after a quick set-up, things start going bump in the night. The new characters just aren’t as interesting. Sure, Micah was a little antagonistic, but it gave him a character to justify his addition to the movie. The two parents in this instance have little going for them, coming across as chess-pieces for Williams to orchestrate his scares around. Their acting isn’t awful, but it isn’t too memorable either, making the quieter scenes a lot less impressive. This is emphasised when Katie Featherston pops up for the occasional cameo, instantly bringing a little life and energy to the movie. The teenage daughter, despite starting as the stereotypical fifteen year old teen in a horror movie, becomes better, mainly because it is her character that is moving the plot forward, something that you end up praying for, when the second act doesn’t ramp up the fun enough. I will give Williams one great piece of inspiration and that is giving this family a baby and a dog. While we don’t care much for the three leads, when the baby or dog is put into the firing line of the demon, we begin to get the fear we have been craving. One prolonged, terrifying scene where the baby, Hunter (side-note: worst name for a baby ever!), is trapped in the house on his own is a ‘heart-in-your-mouth’ moment that could even beat the first movie for creepiness.
But the first movie just had more control. Paranormal Activity is an idea that requires a certain amount of patience. Sure, the opening scenes might be slow and a little dull (this is where we could have done with some more interesting characters), but they are a necessary evil. This sequel rushes through the exposition scenes and kind of becomes a little unsure of itself. These movies are clearly split into ‘day scenes’ and ‘night scenes’, but Williams has no control of his day scenes. They are clipped and pointless, rushing far too quickly into the night scenes. The movie also takes longer to progress. In the first movie, that supernatural presence is always there, as Katie and Micah tried to get to the bottom of the demonic possession. Here, the leads are ignorant for too long. Sure, they have their suspicions, but the father figure dismisses it and everyone else kind of forgets how scared they were the night before. The only tension drilled into the audience is the fact we know what is coming, because this is a sequel. It makes the dread slightly flat, which hurts the overall film. The build-up just isn’t as good.
Thankfully, the third act really pulls it together and makes the second Paranormal Activity a worthy entry in the franchise. Williams might not be too sure-footed with his script and story, but I cannot fault his direction. Certain tricks are terrifyingly precise. The turning point of the movie is where Williams cleverly reverts everything we think we know about Paranormal Activity and delivers his biggest jump scare in one of the day scenes. From then on, we are given a gripping horror thriller. One night sees the demon fully launch an assault on the family, especially Sprague Grayson’s mother figure. That scene takes one of the best scares from the first and takes it to the next level. Then, we get an unexpected twist decision that directly affects the original movie. It makes the events of the first Paranormal Activity much more three-dimensional and shocking. Finally, finishing off this turn-around in quality, Williams gives us two great set-pieces, one in the basement of the house with a night vision camera and another rounding up the movie and connecting all the dots. It is worth the wait.
Final Verdict: Paranormal Activity 2 is a little lifeless until the final third of the movie, when it becomes a terrific scary movie.