PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2
** (out of 5)
October 2, 2010
Sprague Grayden as KRISTI
Molly Ephraim as ALI
Tim Clemens as DAN
Katie Featherston as KATE
Micah Sloat as MICAH
Directed by: Tod Williams
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
My journey through the ups and downs of the “Paranormal Activity” phenomenon has been an emotional roller coaster. When the first one came out, I was initially skeptical, then I saw it in one of its earliest public shows. Watching “Paranormal Activity” in a dark theater with 250 of your closest friends was definitely the way to experience it. And to be honest, I was creeped out by the random noises in my house later that night.
When the inevitable “Paranormal Activity 2” was announced, I was not surprised, but I was even more skeptical. Was it going to be like “Blair Witch 2,” which discarded the found-footage shooting style for a narrative that would make Uwe Boll wince? Were they going to retain the creepiness and flavor of the original?
Early trailers showed that they were going for more of the same, and while that first teaser may have scared the pants off the Texas teenage girls watching “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” I was underwhelmed. However, early buzz from test screenings were quite positive, and I knew quite a few people who declared it was just as scary as – if not more than – the original.
So, I was excited again. And at 10 p.m. on the Thursday before it opened, I went to an early sneak of the movie.
Man, was I disappointed. And I had no trouble sleeping later that night… at all.
I know a lot of people love this movie, and it seems that almost everyone but me who has seen it has been creeped out. But this retread of “Paranormal Activity” was uninspired, pointless and not remotely scary.
This film acts more as a prequel to the first movie, profiling Kate’s sister Kristi as she and her husband bring home their infant son from the hospital. After their house is ransacked by intruders, they set up a camera system around the home, recording everything that happens in every room. Soon, they start to discover mysterious things happening in the night, which leads them to suspect they have a ghost… or worse.
I’m all for horror movies, and I’ve never been one to complain when cheesy horror film sequels offer nothing new. After all, I’ll watch every goddamned “Friday the 13th” sequel that gets made and enjoy the hell out of it. But the first “Paranormal Activity” was so creative, well made and effective that I expected more from this sequel. Instead, we get the same batch of gimmicks and tricks that carry less impact. Sure, they’re louder and have a (slightly) bigger production value, but there’s really no spirit in this, if you’ll pardon the pun.
What was so deftly pointed out in “South Park” not too long ago is that there’s a difference between startling an audience and actually scaring them. Likewise, there’s a difference between just showing boring home movie footage and actually developing the characters or building suspense. For a better executed found footage mockumentary, check out Australia’s “Lake Mungo” instead.
Other problems with “Paranormal Activity 2” lie in its cast. Part of the effectiveness of the first film was the unknown actors that allowed you to suspend disbelief enough to pretend it’s a real documentary. The sequel stars Sprague Grayden, who has recently shown up in everything from “24” to “Sons of Anarchy.” I look at her and immediately think “actor” rather than her character.
Add to this the fact that Tim Clemens, who plays the husband, is one of the worst actors I’ve seen since Heather in “The Blair Witch Project.” Sigh… it’s a sad thing when you’re out-acted by a German shepherd.
Where the first film held some mystery and wonder, this movie offers nothing new and even messes up the first film’s mythology when it tries to explain too much. Were “Paranormal Activity 2” released direct-to-DVD, I would have felt it to be more appropriate and forgivable, because that’s where it belongs.