Paranormal Activity 2
Dir: Tod Williams
Less than a year after its release, Paramount have churned out the obligatory sequel to last year’s horror hit, Paranormal Activity. It’s now sadly a prerequisite now for Hollywood to milk any past success in the horror genre for all its worth – just take a look at the spate of sequels that followed Saw, or Rob Zombie’s atrocious Halloween remake – and here we are presented with another example of a relatively interesting concept ruined by repetition.
The sequel takes place in the home of Kristi (sister of Katie from the first film), with her husband, stepdaughter, and baby son, Hunter. In keeping with the original’s winning formula, PA2 introduces the viewer to the onscreen family via a series of mundane vignettes of their everyday lives. Things take a turn for the worst when the family return home one day to find their house ransacked, yet nothing missing – obviously, something far more sinister than burglary is at hand. Gradually, pans begin to fall from hooks, and cupboard doors fly suddenly open. The main event in the first half is the inexplicable journey of a pool-cleaner from pool-surface to pool-side. Terrifying stuff, of course – but it’s all been done before.
Michael Perry’s script shows discipline in that it does not pander to the audience’s impatience, and seeks to maximize the scares later on. The naturalism of the actors serves to fortify the authenticity of the terror towards the climax. But the nightmare-inducing finale that the audience surely deserve after an hour of Big Brother-esque dullness never materializes. There are some bigger moments towards the end, and for those susceptible to cinematic shock tactics, PA2 does the trick. But you can’t help but feel the director has misjudged the plot’s thrill-potential – one scene involving Hunter’s gravity-defying removal from his crib failed spectacularly to elicit the correct response from the crowd, inspiring prolonged laughter. Surely unintentional…
One interesting angle that the film could have explored was the implied background to this haunting. Had Kristi’s grandmother made a deal with a demon in exchange for great wealth? Exploring demonology could have given the forces at play some kind of malevolent characterization, but we are left with a villain that has all the evil charisma of an angry computer virus. The occasional references to demon business-deals act as a way of tying this film to the original, and try to establish PA2 as a legitimate expansion of the original story. Yet this plot device is so contrived that it reveals PA2 as just another predictable example of cinematic grave-robbing.
Overall, it isn’t just that PA2 is not frightening, it’s that PA2 is boring. What may have been passed off as inventive last year is nothing more than laziness now. And should you be so lucky as to miss PA2 during its run in cinemas, there will surely be something much similar – in plot, and in tedium – released in the coming months.
by Michael Letzer