Director: Tod Williams
Cast: Katie Featherston, Gabriel Johnson
RunTime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: NC-16 (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Official Website: http://www.paranormalmovie.com/
Opening Day: 21 October 2010
After experiencing what they think are a series of "break-ins", a family sets up security cameras around their home, only to realize that the events unfolding before them are more sinister than they seem.
Here’s a fair warning for those who haven’t seen the first movie- “Paranormal Activity 2” isn’t your typical Hollywood horror movie. Sure it does have the occasional loud noises and “jump-scares”, but by and large, this sequel sticks faithfully to the origins of its predecessor in keeping its chills low-key and unpretentious. Despite the runaway success of the original, the producers have wisely opted to film this sequel in the same low-budget fashion- and the result is an equally, if not more, terrifying experience that fans of the original will lap right up.
See chief among the reasons why many were left shaken by the first movie was how it deftly played on the fears of the dark, especially in the comfort (or should I say, discomfort) of one’s home. If you as a kid had ever been afraid of turning off the lights at night, you’ll know what I mean. When all is black around you, somehow your senses get heightened and you pay attention to every groan or creak around the house. You’d also become more alert to presence- think of it as the feeling of how you know before someone comes up to you.
Those are the fears that “Paranormal Activity 2”- like the original- continues to play on. The setting here is a different house- its occupants Frank and Catherine, Frank’s teenage daughter from his first marriage and the couple’s newborn son Hunter (played oh so adorably by Sprague Grayden from TV’s Jericho). Not long after they bring Hunter home, the entire house is turned inside out. Though nothing is taken, the couple decide to install CCTVs around the house as a precaution.
This plot device is a nifty excuse to introduce different camera angles into the final reel, so that director Tod Williams doesn’t just have the handheld or the tripod mounted video cam to play around with. It also allows him to build the suspense more creatively, seeing as how he now has six different views inside and around the house to establish the looming threat. That he does expertly, using the same pattern of shots to first set up the stillness of the house at night, gradually disrupting that pattern with a shadow, a movement, a sound and then more. That deliberate build-up also means there are times where nothing happens, where we are forced to look and observe the presence of something around.
While it may have been tempting for writer Michael Perry to simply start from scratch and construct his own story, it is to his credit that he has intelligently crafted a story that fits right into the events of the first film. To say anything more would probably spoil the surprise for some, suffice to say that the original’s two characters- Kate and Micah- do make appearances in this movie. This sequel also offers insight into what happened in the original- Who or what exactly is haunting them? What does it want? What becomes of Kate after the end of the first movie?- and those who have seen part one will admire how this sequel ties in perfectly.
But also because it follows so keenly in the spirit of the original, “Paranormal Activity 2” is bound to have its fair share of detractors. Indeed, the mixed reaction of the audience when the lights came on at the end of the screening was the exact same mixed reaction this reviewer had witnessed at the end of the first film. The “Paranormal Activity” films were never meant to be Hollywood factory-made horror fare- instead, they were low-key and low-budget affairs that played on our basic fears of the dark and the unknown within the confines of our homes, a place that for most of us represents shelter, safety and security.
So you’d do well to remember that is the experience “Paranormal Activity” wants to be- and if you get home after the movie and start feeling your heart beat faster whenever you hear a groan, a creak or some other random noise in your house at night, you’d know how insidious the effect of “Paranormal Activity” is. Fans take note, this sequel is every bit the same disturbing and quietly terrifying movie you loved in the original.
(Every bit as nerve-wracking and terrifying as the original in exactly the same low-key and insidious fashion)
Review by Gabriel Chong