Saturday, October 23, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

About a year ago, Paranormal Activity reached wide release and was touted as one of the scariest movies ever made. And now, its sequel has made it to theaters. A few days ago, I started seeing quick reviews and Twitter feeds claiming that Paranormal Activity 2 is scarier than the first one. I'm a fairly skeptical person when it comes to claims of sequels one-upping their predecessors. So I had to see this one for myself. It should go without saying that spoilers abound. You have been warned.

Yesterday afternoon I was scheduled to leave work a few hours early. So I took the opportunity to catch a matinee of the new movie, which isn't so much a sequel as it is a prequel to Paranormal Activity with a scene at the end showing a short aftermath of the first one. That being said, it really didn't feel like much of a prequel either. Really, it felt more like a remake with a bigger budget and a bigger cast.

The story itself takes place roughly two months prior to the events of the first film. Instead of one camera and one young couple, we have several security cameras placed strategically throughout a larger house and we have a blended family. This family consists of Dan (the dad), Kristi (the mom/step-mom), Alli (the teenage daughter), Hunter (the baby boy), Martine (the live-in housekeeper), and Abby (the dog). Remember Katie and Micah from part one? They show up from time to time during this one too. Kristi is Katie's sister and experienced the same hauntings growing up as Katie did. So when things start going bump in the night, Kristi is a little more inclined to be freaked out than her husband.

And things do start going bump in the night. The demon from the first film is back with a vengeance. Actually, seeing as how this takes place before the first film, the demon is here for the first time with a vengeance. The invisible bad guy seems pretty attached to Hunter and when all these strange things begin happening, Alli begins to do some internet investigating. In her research, she finds that, in legend, people are known to have made bargains with demons for wealth and/or power in exchange for the soul of their firstborn son. She digs into Kristi's family tree and discovers that Hunter is the first male child born in four generations. This leads the frightened teenage girl to hypothesize that somewhere down Kristi's family line, someone made a deal with the devil.

As with the first film, things get progressively worse. Dan refuses to believe that the haunting is real until it's so severe that he can't ignore it. He even manages to explain away some of the video that his cameras have recorded. But when his wife becomes nearly catatonic, he is forced to accept the facts for what they are. After a frightening and violent confrontation, Dan forces the demon away from his family by somehow transferring it to Kristi's sister, Katie, bringing us back to the beginning of the first film. And if you saw the first film, you know how well that turned out.

Once those events take place, we come back to a sort of epilogue in this film. The demon has taken possession of Katie and returns to her sister's house with a vengeance. For real this time. After taking out the parents, Katie-demon takes Hunter and leaves. According to the producers, their whereabouts are currently unknown. Alli returned from a school trip a few days later and found her parents' bodies in the house. This leaves us with an emotionally scarred girl, ripe for a third movie.

Was it scarier than the first one? I don't think so. But I don't think it was a bad movie either. The thing is, Paranormal Activity just kind of came from out of nowhere. Yeah, the shaky camera thing had been done with Blair Witch, but it was a very different take on that style of horror. And I get that the cameras were a lot more stationary this time, giving it a Big Brother kind of feel, but the idea was basically the same. The story itself really just felt like a repeat of everything that was seen a year ago. And that's what the filmmakers did this time around. They took all the things that made the first one good and just made them bigger.

I think it's a movie worth seeing, but it's probably just as good if you wait for the DVD. Like the first one, it's the kind of scary movie that I really like. It's the kind of scary that gets into your head and allows your imagination to do most of the work.

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