Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

The original cost hardly anything to make (by Hollywood standards) and it smashed into the box office and ripped almost 200 million dollars from audiences across the globe. It scared people silly and provided a surprisingly original take on the haunted house / possession film. Therefore it was no surprise Paranormal Activity 2 has appeared, begging for more of your hard-earned cash. But is it worth dropping coin on this sequel? Yes. But only just…

Set 60 days before the horrifying events of Paranormal Activity, PA2 focuses on the sister of PA1’s demon-bothered Katie. The house this time is bigger – even boasting an outside pool – and the family unit has expanded. Katrina (Katie’s sister) lives with her husband Daniel, his teenage daughter Ali, baby boy Hunter and their dog.

After having their home ransacked (but, disconcertingly, having nothing stolen), Daniel installs a number of security cameras in and outside their home to deter any further intrusions. Mixing these tapes with shots from a hand-held camcorder, we witness the slow and steady haunting of the household as events play out in similar fashion to the original film. The target this time, however, is baby Hunter and it proves utterly disturbing watching a helpless child being tormented by an unseen force. Convinced there’s something demonic in the house, the family set about trying to rid their home of this evil, with unthinkable consequences…

Paranormal Activity 2 does a very good job of taking the original and expanding upon what made it so interesting, exciting and terrifying – shocks, shadows, horrible silences and invisible forces dragging people along floors. It is very scary, but you can’t help feeling you’ve seen it all before.

Paranormal Activity 2 is not unique – please don’t expect it to be – bursting with a similar storyline and pacing as the original, and it lacks the overwhelming surprise of PA1. Yet it still works. There are genuine moments of shock and, with the addition of more cameras, the ability to witness more. Even the tamer moments really disturb – pool cleaner, baby mobile, pans – as well as the in-your-face screamingly obvious demon attacks and one pant-wettingly scary moment set in broad daylight.

Fans of the original Paranormal Activity may welcome the expansion of the P.A. universe, but there are some niggles that will irritate if both films are watched back-to-back. As the events in Paranormal Activity 2 happen BEFORE the original (Katie & Micah actually appear in this sequel), it is bizarre Katie never mentions any of her sister’s troubles during PA1, especially considering what it relates to. Also, as the background of both sisters is some-what revealed, there are some odd continuity errors which could grate and detract. Those who have not seen the original won’t notice these issues, however, as it’s accessible to new comers and fans alike.

There are some other problems with Paranormal Activity 2, however, that tick the cliché boxes with a huge red marker pen. The heavily-religious Latina maid might be too much for some, especially when she seems to know all about evil spirits and exactly how to deal with them, and the mostly absent, disbelieving husband may also aggravate as it’s very similar to Micah’s skeptical character in the original. There are also moments when other camera angles would’ve shown so much more but are inexplicably ignored. Yes, this technique is cinematically more exciting, but it still makes no sense when dealing with the “documentary evidence” Paramount Pictures are pretending they’ve unearthed.

Luckily, despite some obvious problems, there are brilliant moments and genuine scares. The characters are much more likeable too, especially daughter Ali (Molly Ephriam), who is wholly believable in her actions. Ephriam is excellent in a difficult role, and the majority of the cast do a decent job of creating naturalistic performances. Even Katie and Micah are less annoying than in PA1, but perhaps because their screen time is greatly diminished here.

Overall, Paranormal Activity 2 is a decent sequel. It expands the universe, ups the ante and essentially remains utterly terrifying. It does fall into cliché and the ending may frustrate, but it’s certainly worth paying for.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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