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.
Daniel Rey along with his wife, Kristi; daughter, Ali; toddler son, Hunter, and their dog, move to Carlsbad, California. A few days later their residence is broken into, however, nothing appears to be missing. In order to prevent re-occurrences, they install a number of security cameras that will record everything on a DVR. After they hire a Spanish-speaking nanny to look after Hunter, she informs them that there is something wrong in their house and performs prayers, much to the chagrin of Daniel, who lets her go. He will subsequently regret this decision as more inexplicable and strange incidents occur, with Ali concluding, after a research, that their house may be possessed by a demonic entity. Written by
Shipped to theaters under the code name "Sharpie 79". See more »
During the first 17 nights or so, you can see two things that never change/move. A white cup in the kitchen in front of the fruit plate and the pillow arrangement on the sofa. Clearly a lot of different night scenes were shot in the same night. See more »
Welcome home, Hunter, this is your house. Gonna look out that window. There's your front door.
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"Paramount Pictures would like to thank the families of the deceased and the Carlsbad police department." See more »
A well done sequel, but not as memorable as the original
Creating a sequel to a film like Paranormal Activity sounds like a silly idea in theory. The film was released two years after it was made and went on to become a wild, completely unpredictable success. It struck a horrifying chord with audiences, and is one of the few movies I have seen where the participation of the audience was key to the film's overall effect. It was a memorable experience, one that cannot be replicated on DVD. So could a sequel to a film like this do any justice? Rather surprisingly, it can.
Paranormal Activity 2 revolves around the Rey family. Dan (Brian Boland) and his new wife Kristi (Sprague Grayden) have just welcomed newborn Hunter into the family, and very soon after, a weird break-in occurs in the house. Despite the family's affection for hand-held cameras, Dan gets security cameras installed around the house. Then weird, unexplained things start happening.
Paranormal Activity 2 easily could have been a phoned in sequel made specifically to bank on the original film's success. Instead, the filmmakers have crafted a film that not only ups the ante and precedents set in the original film, but enhances them as well. It gives us more characters and more cameras, and uses them to their advantage in every situation it presents. They even manage to craft a method of tying the original film into this one, in a totally unexpected way. It does what every good sequel should do elaborate and extend the story from its predecessor. The sheer fun and surprise of some of these elements is more than worth the price of admission alone. But of course, the less you know about some of the surprises within the film, the better. It was secretive for a reason, and those going in unspoiled will no doubt enjoy the movie a lot more than those with an idea of what to expect going in.
What also works is that the film does not do away with the little scares and idiosyncrasies that made Paranormal Activity so effective. It lays them on, and builds towards some pretty horrific moments. While the original film relied on freaky and subtle special effects (the footprints and movement of the sheets come to mind immediately), this film relies more on sound and impending dread. The pumping bass gives away some of the scares a little too early in some scenes, but the unexpected high pitched sounds give way to some incredibly terrifying moments. Despite a higher budget, it felt more minimalist in a lot of ways, and showed that the filmmakers did not let success go to their heads. They wanted to maintain the same sense and style of the original film, and never once do they change this wise mentality. There are scenes that are much more elaborate and look like there was more money involved, but for the most part, it looks just as cheap as the original.
The experience of watching with an audience is also maintained here. There are plenty of moments of breathlessness, zany suspense and wild "What the hell is going on?!" moments scattered throughout the film. While the audience is more honed and prepared for some of these scenes than they were in Paranormal Activity, a lot of them still manage to be just as unpredictable and crazy as ever. While I did not see the film with a sold out crowd like I did last year, having a rather large crowd still managed to make the film just as scary as it should be. This is another film that will not be anywhere near as ridiculously effective on DVD.
If there is anything that works against the film (outside of a rather ludicrously bad effects scene involving a pool cleaner), it is that the film takes a bit too long getting around to hooking the audience on for the ride. Part of this is because the film's primary characters are nowhere near as captivating as Katie and Micah were. We care about what happens to this family, and we feel the pains and scares they are going through. But we never see the irresistible chemistry or horrifying realism of what is happening on screen the same way. In this case, it is much clearer that we are watching a movie, and the illusion of it being "real" footage is never there. Part of it is also due to the first act being padded out with a bit too much dialogue and set-up for what we can expect to come. I liked these early moments a lot more than most people did, but I still think they could have been significantly stronger and better honed.
I also feel that, despite the lengths everyone went to creating a film that did not simply cash in on a brand, its lasting impact was nowhere near as intense and petrifying as the original film. It admirably tries, but it never quite reaches the same heights. It can try all it wants to be just as good, but the lasting effect and charm of Paranormal Activity was just how wildly original it was. It is not an easy film to replicate, and while I admired all the techniques used in this sequel to make it feel in line and a worthy sequel, it simply cannot match up and go the distance as a film that betters the original.
I was greatly surprised by what Paranormal Activity 2 has to offer its audience, but must contain my enthusiasm for it. It is the rare sequel that does everything right, but it just never manages to be anywhere near as strong a final product as the original film. It is by no means a disappointment, just simply nowhere near as effective as the original film. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.
(This review also appeared on http://www.geekspeakmagazine.com).
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