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Review: Paranormal Activity 2

Oct. 22, 2010by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: A series of bizarre household mishaps (and the internet) leads a suburban family into believing they are the victims of a demonic haunting.

REVIEW: Considering that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY grossed over $100 Million on an $11,000 budget, a sequel was inevitable. Sure enough, exactly one year after the first film hit theatres, we have a sequel that is essentially the same film.

Beat for beat, this is an exact duplicate, with only (some) of the cast, and the director changing. Replace our bickering young couple from the first film with a bickering family (the young mother of which is played by SONS OF ANARCHY's Sprague Grayden), a housekeeper and a dog, and voila- you have PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. I'm actually surprised it took a whole year for this to come out, as it looks like the type of film that could have been shot in a weekend.

Once again, we get the whole "I'm using a video-camera to document how fucked up this is" device, coupled with the CCTV cameras used in the first film. We also get a long scene where "night vision" is used that's incredibly derivative of REC- which for my money, is the only film to use the tired video camera device is a clever way.

For the most part, the acting in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 is acceptable, just as it was in the first film. Everyone's pretty bland, but I suppose that's the point as they're just a normal family. That said, when the most memorable character in the film is the dog, you've got a bit of a problem.

As for the direction, well- let's just say there is none. Director Tod Williams actually made a great indie back in the nineties called THE ADVENTURES OF SEBASTIAN COLE, but here he's just aping Oren Peli's work in the first film. No effort whatsoever is made to distinguish the two films. The way the two families are tied together through a character from the first film suggests this is meant to be taken as just an extension of that film (actually a prequel), which is kinda boring if you ask me- but I suppose is what the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY fans want. I suppose this is meant to build some kind of mythology, so that this cash cow can keep giving the studio buckets of milk. Sure enough, the audience I saw this with seemed to go for it in a big way, with lots of jumps and audible “holy shits” coming out of the sneak preview crowd. For me, this is a bit of a sad commentary on what we find scary, as- just like the first one, this is full of cheap scares, with rumbling sound fx, and jump scenes being the only tools at the disposal of the filmmakers.

Once again, we have an obviously shoe-string production, which I suppose all but guaranties the studios a profitable run. In fact, I'd wager infinitely more is being spent on the promotion of this film than ended up on the screen, which feels like a cheat, as this is not some zero-budget indie, but a film funded by Paramount Pictures. Surely they could have found a creative way to do a follow-up that wouldn't be completely derivative of the first film which, let's face it, was never that good to begin with.

I know, I know- it was smash hit, but so what? That doesn't mean it's good. Rather, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was a clever film. I admire the fact that Oren Peli was able to throw together a hugely successful film on such a meagre budget, but it's not a particularly great horror film. I have no idea why audiences took to it the way they did, as I've never met a single person who actually thought it was a good film.

That said, it obviously had it's fans, and I'm sure PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 will be a fairly successful film, although if, like me, you were not a fan of the first installment, don't go into this expecting anything even remotely creative. Then again, when the people behind BLAIR WITCH did a sequel, they tried making a proper film, and that didn't work out so well- so maybe this is the right tact after all.

Look- I hated the first film, and I hate the second one. However, I know there are fans out there, and if you dug part one, you'll dig the follow-up too. However, if you're like me (and I bet a lot of you are) skip this, as there are better ways to spend your eleven bucks. JACKASS anyone?

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