To be honest the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ was a gimmick, but it was a damned effective one. Truly a movie that successful, made for that miniscule amount of money, is no doubt going to give birth to a sequel and here we are with ‘Paranormal Activity 2’. The problem with gimmicks is that they tend to only work once, since the uniqueness of the gimmick has expired, which is the problem I largely had with ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ in that not only has the expiration date on the gimmick been used up, but it wasn’t as cleverly applied to this film as it was towards the original film.
We already know from the first movie… at least I hope you know because I’m about to totally spoil it for you… that Micah Sloat is dead and his girl Katie is on the run. But where in the world did Katie run off too after totally smoking those sucka cops at the end of the first movie? Hmmm….
Let’s go back in time a bit. Before Katie and Micah were attacked by that evil vengeful demon, we get to meet Katie’s sister Kristi (Sprague Gayden), Kristi’s doubting Nellie of a husband Daniel (Brian Boland), and their teenaged daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim). These three live in a nice house in Carlsbad along with their infant son Hunter and their loyal German Sheppard Abby and everybody is just getting along swimmingly, with someone always walking around with a handheld video camera videotaping everything for no particular reason that I can tell, with the possible exception that maybe one day this footage might be useful in a movie sequel somewhere down the line.
Then one day when the family comes home they find the house completely trashed, but nothing was stolen and there were no signs of forced entry. Peculiar indeed. No problem because Daniel simply installs a handy dandy home camera surveillance system and now we have cameras in every room in the house to catch all of the freaky goings on.
It takes a while, seriously… it takes a while, for the freaky stuff to get started but finally it does. The mystical Mexican maid (Vivis Cortez) knows something ain’t right but that gets her fired. Abby the dog knows something is wrong but she can’t speak
English much better than the maid. Kristi the wife knows something is up considering the possessed pool cleaner and the suddenly clanking pots and pans, but her asshole husband uses his wife’s fears as a way to get a good laugh out it. The teenage daughter knows something isn’t right, but she thought a ghost floating around the house would be kind of cool…. That is until…
Now what? Katie tells her sister to chill because apparently they have a history with this kind of thing, the daughter does some research and she doesn’t like what she’s found, Abby the dog really wishes she knew how to speak and the doubting husband doubts no more and has to call on the mystical maid for a plan. Does the plan work? Well, kind of… in a way… not really…. But I can’t spoil it for you.
The first ‘Paranormal Activity’ establishes early on that Micah has just brought this fancy new camera and he is obnoxious with this fancy new camera and that completely worked as a reason for Micah to videotape everything, a dramatic device that flowed nicely and cleverly to what would follow. This one was far more forced in the use of the obnoxious camera. There are scenes, right after all kinds of hell has just broken loose, where someone is videotaping someone watching a videotape. That’s not what we would call… organic. At least they were consistent with this insane use of the handheld video camera but that doesn’t make it any better.
Secondly, and probably more importantly, it sure did take a long time for something to happen. Sitting around listening to these folks and their banal interactions while waiting for the first door to involuntarily slam was somewhat terminable. Now some may be affected by this differently as this conceivably could be building up unbearable tension in these individuals, but for me it was just building up boredom.
Eventually, of course, doors get to slamming and pots get to banging and the movie does get better, but I never experienced that overbearing sense of dread that I had experienced watching the first movie. Maybe because I was expecting all of these things to happen right about the time they did happen, possibly because in some of the scenes it was hard to make out what was happening or possibly because the gimmick had exhausted itself by this point and I simply wasn’t feeling the fear. At least until the final scene. That was pretty damn good. I wouldn’t want to watch this movie again to get to it, but it was effective and this leads us to what was possibly the best part about this movie which was the way that it intersects with the original film. It would probably be even better if you checked out the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ on DVD and then caught this the next day.
Still it was a disappointment for me. It was clever the way the two films fit but the gimmick of ‘Paranormal Activity’ has pretty much run its course. How they are going to squeeze a third one out of this is beyond me but I think we all would be surprised if that didn’t happen.