Ghost stories date back centuries and are often considered to be a great way scare folks, especially around Halloween time. The ghost story has been popularized in recent times due to the overabundance of paranormal investigation shows on television, that and the release of Oren Pell’s Paranormal Activity, a low-budget success that would go on to earn nearly $200 million worldwide. The film was in the vein of Blair Witch Project and borrowed the idea of presenting “found footage” to the audience.
Fast forward only one year, when Paramount Pictures rushed a sequel into theaters that would destroy what little entertainment value the first one had and forever confirm the belief that Hollywood has truly ran out of original ideas. Paranormal Activity 2 was clearly slopped together without any care or attention for the sole purpose of milking the original for all that it was worth.
Early in the film, the audience realizes that is indeed not a sequel as the title might imply, but rather a sequel that occurs roughly sixty days before the conclusion of Paranormal 1. Still using the idea of “found footage” and a virtually nonexistent plot, the only real difference is that the first film’s characters, Micah and Katie, are swapped with Dan and Kristi, Katie’s sister. Additionally, a dog, baby and teenage girl are also added to the cast. Also, this being a prequel, Micah and Katie even make a few appearances, although it is certain that their existence is to remind the audience that the two films are related to one another.
This time around, security cameras, after a supposed robbery, are installed and these, along with a camcorder, are used to provide the audiences with different angles at the house. This ends up being a plus because it offers something to look at other than a single-shot of a bedroom, which encompassed a large percentage of the first film. These various views of the house are constantly being cycled through as the film progresses; however the extended scenery really offers nothing new or remotely exciting to see.
This problem is mirrored from the original film, where the main flaw was the fact that to be “scary” movie, it really didn’t show anything that could be construed as frightening, unless one can count a few slamming doors and loud noises. The sequel/prequel has the same problem, which is a shame because the trailers and viral marketing seem to indicate that the movie would try to outdo itself and actually be scarier than the first. These advertisements show strange things going on in a mirror, scenes spliced with disturbing images and an actual visible apparition. None of these elements make the film and are only used to lure moviegoers into paying for tickets to a repeat of a film that they saw last year.
Another strange thing about this film is that Paramount Pictures is reluctant to reveal the names of the performers. This could be a ploy to try and fool fans into thinking that events really did happen, as the plot would suggest, however, Kristi is played by Sprague Grayden, an actress best known for her appearance as President Taylor’s daughter on 24. Plus, Katie and Micah are in the film and they are clearly real people, having appeared in interviews and such. Therefore, this tactic is a complete failure and instead should have been utilized with the first film.
The ending was decent but not quite “jaw-dropping”, as some might have you believe. It too felt incredibly rushed, almost like it was thrown on at the last minute.
All in all, the movie had potential but was probably released too soon without any thought. It might have been a lot better had it been a true sequel, set in the home of a completely different family but still somehow connected to the original film. It might also not have hurt to include some different scares, other than the random door slam. However, the box office returns indicate that Paranormal Activity 2 has broken the record for midnight screenings and that is a good indication that the film will likely do well. Therefore, it is safe to assume that part three will be released around this time next year, rushed and boring like the one before.
2 / 5 "Kills"
This film was seen at the AMC Showplace 12 at Trader's Point in Indianapolis.