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Old 10-24-2010, 03:06 PM
Tod Williams's Paranormal Activity 2

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Last year, "Paranormal Activity," a film about a couple being haunted by a demon, came out of nowhere to become an unexpected hit at the box office. This year, the sequel that many anticipated comes to theaters with the same gimmick of being "found footage." This new entry has pretty much the exact same plot too, only this time involving more people, which basically makes it exactly like the original film...which is not a good thing.

This time around, the focus is on Kristi (Sprague Grayden), her husband Daniel (Brian Boland), their daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim), and their baby son Hunter. They believe that their home has recently been broken into, so they decide to install security cameras throughout the house. Then, of course, we begin to see the paranormal occurrences happening at night. Kristi and Ali slowly start to become concerned with some of the strange things going on, but Daniel merely tries to explain these events away and doesn't want to hear anything more about it.

This family is joined by Hunter's nanny Martine, who notices the spiritual presence before anyone else, and even tries to get rid of it. After trying to perform a ritual to do so, she is fired by the skeptical Daniel. Kristi's sister, Katie (Katie Featherston), tells her to just ignore the presence to make it go away. However, things only continue to get worse as the occurrences become more frequent and more terrifying for the family.

This film is basically a good news/bad news situation. The bad news is that it's just as dull as the original film. Pretty much nothing happens except for a few strange incidents at night followed by the family wondering what's going on. This, once again, doesn't make for an exciting or engrossing film, nor a thrilling or scary one.

The good news is that it's not really any worse than the original film either. The filmmakers basically set out to make a duplicate of the first film with just a few minor differences, and in doing so, they ended up with a film that feels like a complete retread of the original. With the previous film having made so much money, I guess they didn't want to stray too far away from the confines of it.

Once again, the paranormal incidents are the most interesting part of the film. Like the first movie, they start off slow: A toy hanging above Hunter's crib begins to move on its own, a pan suddenly falls off its hook, and, as per usual, doors move and slam shut without any assistance. Then they gradually begin to build to larger, more sudden, instances including cabinets flying open and people being dragged. All of these are, of course, accompanied by a loud bang to make sure the audience is still awake (or to wake them back up).

There were incidents in the first film that had left me wondering more about how they were done rather than thinking that they were frightening, and now, the second film had me not only thinking that again, but also about the safety of the actors during these incidents. You may recall Katie being dragged out of bed and down the hall in the first movie, but here, someone is swept off their feet and dragged down a flight of stairs. There was no thought of it being scary, but more so thoughts of how painful that might have been, especially if multiple takes were involved.

By the end of the film, the filmmakers manage to tie it to the original, but so what? There was never any reason to care about the original's characters, nor these characters, so what do we care how the two films relate to each other? To put it simply, if you've seen the first film, then you've seen this film. There's nothing new offered here, so there's not much of a point in bothering with it. At least this time the studio didn't try to fool people by including the same old tiresome "scared audience" footage in their marketing. 2/4 stars.
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