A couple years ago, a little low-budget movie about a couple harassed by an unseen evil shot into the public consciousness, spreading virally, like that video of a cat playing keyboards. It was Paranormal Activity (my review is right here) and although fans and bloggers alike would be split on liking it, no one can deny the publicity machine that surrounded it.
Before the movie is barely born unto the world, a sequel is announced. I tell you, they're announcing sequels sooner and sooner these days. The success of the first film warranted a second, which, of course, is a tried and true Hollywood formula. Paranormal Activity 2 was released in 2010, this time with a different writing team (Michael R. Perry, Christopher B. Landon, and Tom Pabst) and a different director (Tod Williams), as original writer and director Oren Peli fell back into producer duties. While Paranormal Activity had its super-happy-crazy hype machine, the sequel had what seemed to me a lot less shouting. Sure, it had its share of viral videos and weird websites - in fact, the trailers and interactive website were downright creepy. But I either didn't feel or was subconsciously resistant to the hype surrounding the sequel.
Now, before there's a collective "aw, man, sequels" groan, let me say out of the gate that I found Paranormal Activity 2 to be quite interesting, holding my attention for the entire film. It's the same formula as the first movie: normal family, weird happenings, cameras documents, weirder happenings, get-out-of-the-house-NOW finale. Sometimes you just go with what worked before. What I found most interesting was how it intertwined with the story of the first movie.
The story begins with the arrival of baby Hunter (William and Jackson Prieto) into the Rey family, consisting of papa Daniel (Brian Boland), his daughter from a previous marriage Ali (Molly Ephraim), and his second wife Kristi (Sprague Grayden). We discover very quickly that Kristi is the sister of Katie, one of the stars of the first movie - and those who have seen it suddenly realize the time frame is very important. Reprising their roles as Katie and Micah are Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, appearing at various points throughout the story. As you soon find out - and this is no spoiler - Paranormal Activity 2 is essentially a prequel. Sort of.
After some small incidents, followed by a ransacked house in which only a necklace belonging to Kristi was stolen, the Reys install cameras throughout their home. We're privy to their life with a growing child in what is, by all accounts, a normal, happy existence. But like Katie in the first movie, Kristi is deeply affected by the strange happenings: voices, footsteps, pots falling off their hooks, Ali relating a feeling like the place may be haunted. In fact, Ali thinks it's "cool" at first, but deeper research into ghosts and demons quash her enthusiasm reeeeal quick-like.
The strange occurrences get wilder and more malignant until Kristi is at the center of a particularly violent episode. Finally wanting to do something about it, Daniel takes matters into his own hands with the help of the nanny he fired earlier (Vivis Cortez), someone who seems to know a little about keeping bad spirits away. I'm not going to get into the climax, denouement, and snap ending of the movie. Don't want to spoil it, although through logic, you may already have guessed the outcome. Still, there are story elements that add some spice to it, and for that, it made me want to keep watching.
I can safely say I thought Paranormal Activity 2 was pretty good. I know that notion will be at odds with some, but hey, variety's the spice of life. The use of deep ambient tones as a score was effective, and I believed Ephraim and Grayden's performances were especially good and quite believable. Like I said, I rather enjoyed the intertwining of the stories.
That said, I didn't come away from the movie feeling like I watched something special. It was entertainment, and that's it. That's fine, believe me. But for me, it didn't affect me like some films can. The ending was abrupt, which kept with the formula, but I did utter out loud, "oh, I guess that's it." Don't ask me what could have made it meatier. I've had pizzas that didn't satisfy me, but I couldn't tell you how to make them better. I'm just happy that I didn't waste my time, and that I can relate my opinion that I thought this movie was pretty good. I'm actually OK with Paranormal Activity 3 being made.
Now just make sure you've installed cameras, my friends...never know what they'll capture...