Paranormal Activity 2 Movie Review
Title: Paranormal Activity 2
Directed by: Tod Williams (Wings Over the Rockies, The Door in the Floor)
Starring: Katie Featherston (Paranormal Activity, Walking Distance)
Great demonic horror films, such as ‘The Exorcist,’ provide developed characters and thorough back-stories in an effort to get the audience to relate to the possessed character’s pain. While no film rivals the 1973 classic, last year’s critical and box-office hit ‘Paranormal Activity’ was extremely close. The thriller was so successful because the main character, Katie, believed she had a ghostly presence following her around since childhood, something a multitude of people around the world claim they can relate to. Paramount Pictures decided to try to replicate the movie’s success by releasing ‘Paranormal Activity 2,’ but its efforts to reveal more details about Katie’s possession failed to raise up as many scares.
The movie acts mainly as a prequel, detailing the events of how Katie was exposed to the demonic presence that haunted her and Micah’s house in the original ‘Paranormal Activity.’ Katie’s sister Kristi and her husband Dan bring their newborn son Hunter home from the hospital, and unexplainable things immediately begin happening. For instance, there was what looked to be a break-in in the beginning of the movie; however, nothing was actually stolen except for a necklace Katie made for Kristi. Dan then decides to install six cameras throughout the house in case another break-in occurred.
The family’s nanny, Martine, tries to cleanse the house of its evil spirits, and to usher in good spirits. Dan, however, doesn’t believe in ghosts and spirits, and doesn’t believe anyone’s claims that the house is haunted, even his daughter Ali.
When Paramount Pictures announced that they were planning on releasing a follow-up, it seemed as though they wanted to cash in on one of the most successful films of all time. Released around Halloween last year, ‘Paranormal Activity’ was released as a pseudo-documentary, much like the simiarly-themed ‘Blair Witch Project,’ and earned $193,355,800 worldwide off of a $15,000 budget. The ending showed a possessed Katie killing Micah, with a title card saying that while police found his body in their house, she was never found. Since the entire point of the movie was to show the couple trying to fight off the demonic presence, there didn’t seem much left for screenwriter and director Oren Peli to touch on. Much like other horror sequels, ‘Paranormal Activity 2′ seemed destined to exploit the title and just feature another possessed couple.
But when Paramount revealed they were creating a prequel to Katie and Micah’s story, expectations for ‘Paranormal Activity 2′ deservingly increased. Audiences were excited to find out why exactly demons were currently pursing Katie, and why they always went after her and Kristi. The new screenwriters Paramount hired for the movie, Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon and Tom Pabst, deserve some recognition for subtly including a simple reason why, without focusing the entire plot on it. That way, viewers are able to connect with Kristi and her family, much like they did with Katie and Micah in the first film.
But what made the original so scary was the fact that everything Katie and Micah did was in some part influenced by the demonic presence, and what they could do to get rid of it. In ‘Paranormal Activity 2,’ for the most part, the characters don’t seem all that scared by the demons, much less believe they’re there. They just carry on with their everyday lives, as if nothing’s really wrong.
The movie also gained attention when director Tod Williams was hired by Paramount to replace ‘Saw VI’ director Kevin Greutert. While Greutert was originally supposed to take the reins from Peli, Lions Gate exercised a clause in his contract and demanded he helm the final ‘Saw’ movie instead of ‘Paranormal Activity 2.’ While this behind-the-camera shake-up kept people interested in the prequel, Williams failed to live up to expectations. He showed his inexperience in directing (having only helmed two other movies since 1998) with slow pacing. While audiences don’t want an exact replica of the first film, ‘Paranormal Activity 2′ should have followed its predecessor’s lead and showed the deeper effects the demons’ presence in Kristi’s life had on her and her family.
Overall, ‘Paranormal Activity 2′ proved that unlike most horror sequels/prequels, it could indeed provide answers and a more thorough back-story that were left out of the original. However, its rapid five-month production, post-production and advertising period proved that when a studio is too quick to provide a follow-up to a successful film, the magic that made the first movie so great is often lacking.
Written by: Karen Benardello