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Entries in Paranormal Activity 2 [2010] (1)

Saturday
Oct232010

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Foyer Consideration

I was nervous as hell, going to see Paranormal Activity 2 this morning.  The first film freaked me out for a week, and the sequel had a number of things going for it that could’ve proved disastrous to my psyche; to wit:

  • A big, empty house
  • A newborn named Hunter, to whom all manner of creepy things happen

Waiting for the movie to start, I thought about the big, empty house I’d have to return to in a couple of hours, since my wife is visiting her parents down-state—with our three-month-old son, Hunter.  I got the willies.

Realizing that exactly zero percent of you will have had the same experience, I’ll leave context aside and review the movie.

It sucks.

Alright, alright, I’ll dig a little deeper—if I must.  Paranormal Activity 2 begins about a year before the events of last year’s horror smash.  We meet Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Dan (Brian Boland) as they record the homecoming of their newborn.  We also meet Dan’s teenage daughter, Ali (Molly Ephraim) the family maid, Martine (Vivis), and their dog, Abbey.  There’s a lot of introductory business in the first five minutes, which stretches out to ten, then fifteen—until, finally, something supernatural happens.

I’d heard rumblings that “if you’ve seen Paranormal Activity, you’ve seen Paranormal Activity 2”, and it depresses me to say that this is, for the most part, true; the key difference is that there were cool, new things to see in the original.  In the sequel, we get more Ouija boards; more loud bangs from the basement and attic; more people being invisibly dragged down hallways; more annoying characters screaming at each other and not believing what is plain to not only the audience and everyone else in the film, but also to themselves.  There’s just more of everything we’ve seen, and nothing we haven’t, in terms of scares. The most tension I felt in that trying hour-and-a-half derived from watching twenty-five shots of the house’s front door; only one of which showed the door moving on its own.

Yes, there’s a baby and a dog.  But unless you’re unfamiliar with The Omen, The Exorcist, or any episode of Family Guy, there’s literally nothing in Paranormal Activity 2 that will be fresh or exciting to you.  I spent most of my time thinking about how old Hunter was supposed to be instead of what kind of peril he might find himself in (the film’s timeline is a bit fuzzy; footage of newborn Hunter cuts to sometime in the future, when he’s walking and eating Cheerios—yet still treated like an infant).

The biggest complaint I’ve heard about the first film is that the male lead, Micah (Micah Sloat) was a clueless asshole whose thick-headedness got progressively denser, solely for the convenience of keeping him and his wife, Katie (Katie Featherston) from leaving their haunted house.  I bought that density, for reasons I explained in my review of the film; but the writers of PA2 have upped the ante way too much with the Dan character.  He’s a wealthy owner of multiple Burger King franchises, and a complete tool.  Dan’s also an atheist—which is ironic, since he refuses to acknowledge all the hard evidence of weird goings-on in his house, even after watching them on tape; it isn’t until his possessed wife nearly bites his head off (literally), that he gets with the program.

Dan’s the kind of guy who leaves a crying teenager at home to babysit and look after his catatonic wife so that he can attend a “really important meeting.”  He’s also the kind of evil douchebag who will sell out his relatives in the name of convenience.

Oh, did I mention that Dan’s sister-in-law is Katie?  I’ve tiptoed into spoiler territory here, so if you don’t want to know any more specifics, I suggest you skip ahead to the second-to-last paragraph (that is, if I haven’t convinced you to skip this movie).

Katie and Micah appear in the film, and because director Tod Williams has zero faith in his audience’s ability to comprehend prequels, we get a title card that reads something to the effect of, “This was filmed 60 Days before the death of Micah Sloat” (thanks, Tod; for a moment I thought I’d stumbled into a zombie film).  Katie and Kristi’s bizarre childhood was explored briefly in the first film, and is touched on here, too.  Their family is being stalked by a demon because one of their ancestors made a deal with the devil for wealth and power; the price, of course, is the soul of the first-born male child.  I’m not making this up.

In order to save Hunter’s life, Martine tells Dan, the demon must latch on to another blood relative.  Dan is fine with this, and traps the unholy essence in a necklace that he and Kristi give to Katie (or something like that; the “how” is rather vague).  Keep in mind: these are the people we’re supposed to root for against the demon.

There’s nothing about Paranormal Activity 2 that works (sure, the transference twist is a neat idea, but the details undo some of the randomness and creepiness of the first film).  When I wasn’t bored out of my mind, I was outright giggling—particularly at the climax in which Hunter disappears into the ridiculously cluttered basement; I didn’t know if I was watching a horror movie or a special night-vision edition of Hoarders.  On top of that, there’s a lot more acting going on in the sequel; whereas the original featured unknowns delivering natural performances, PA2 is full of faux weightiness, and I couldn’t stop thinking about Sprague Grayden’s role as the President’s daughter two seasons ago on 24.

Paranormal Activity 2 is clearly a rushed sequel. The five minutes of interesting new information could have easily been woven into a Director’s Cut blu-ray re-issue of the original.  But because that film’s box office was nearly ten thousand times what it cost to make, I guess a follow-up was inevitable. Too bad the creators couldn’t come up with something that was scarier than my Saturday afternoon trip to Wal-Mart.