Paranormal Activity 2

Posted October 22, 2010 by in

Quick Stats

Genre: horror, supernatural thriller, found footage
Director: Tod Williams
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Molly Ephraim
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: 10/22/2010
Studio: Paramount Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Solana Films, Room 101
What We Thought

Tod Williams skillfully preys upon the audience’s anticipation, such that a door slowly opening has—within its smooth, slow sweep—all the terror humanity fears at the prospect of the unknown, even before it turns malicious.

by Nick Rodriguez
Full Article

Paramount Studios bought the first Paranormal Activity with the intention of remaking it. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the original by Oren Peli was distributed to acclaim and the new experience for some of being terrified by the sound of a refrigerator motor switching on. For Paranormal Activity 2, those cool heads are still in control. The prequel, produced but not written by Peli, amplifies and annotates the first film without losing what made it so deeply terrifying. It’s not splashy special effects, neither film has them. Rather, it’s setting the correct tone of normal, even dull, everyday life, insinuating the unknown into it, and then letting the terror unfold.

Katie and Micah from the first film are back, but they are not the focus this time. That would be Katie’s sister, Kristi, who has just given birth to son Hunter. Life is idyllic with well-heeled husband Dan, and teen step-daughter, Ali, in their spacious house with an equally spacious pool in back. A nanny insures that motherhood will not be too taxing. The nanny will also insure that the odd things that start happening, such as the odd, clawed thing Ali finds in her toilet, or Hunter staring intently at someone no one else can see, will not go unremarked upon. The break-in that tossed belongings about, but results in the loss of a necklace that once belonged to Katie, spurs Dan to install surveillance cameras in every nook and cranny of the house and yard. It also records the peculiar things going one when no one is looking, but with no reason to check the video, they go unnoticed. Things like a baby mobile that starts moving on its own but stops when an adult walks into the nursery. The nanny begins muttering prayers and making signs in the air to the amusement of Dan and Kristi. Amusement turns to consternation when the nanny becomes more insistent about dealing with the spirits, good and bad, that she claims are in the house.

It’s Ali who thinks it would be awesome to have a ghost in the house. It’s also Ali who provides the groundwork for what is actually happening with snippets of information she gleans off the web and shares with her boyfriend, which registers more alarm as time passes as the peculiar happening in the house become more difficult to explain logically.
Screenwriter Michael R. Perry builds things very slowly, but deliberately. He and director Tod Williams skillfully prey upon the audience’s anticipation, such that a door slowly opening has—within its smooth, slow sweep—all the terror humanity fears at the prospect of the unknown, even before it turns malicious. The first loud thump, and the irregularly spaced bangs, slams, and the like that follow that first one, create a double-whammy of an effect: shock at the suddenness of the event, and relief that it has finally happened. The two powerful emotions that spring from somewhere below the cerebral and smack in the middle of instinct, create an almost unbearable sense of panic that grows as the film progresses, abetted with events that become increasingly impossible to explain away.

Things that go bump in the night have frightened humankind since humankind first existed. It’s a fact that both films exploit to full effect. Mixing the look of unrefined home video and surveillance cameras with the pointedly unstudied performances by an everyman and everywoman cast, the unexplained creak, the sudden thud, and that humming of the refrigerator motor when everything is just a little too still, become a potent mix of horror. All the more effective for coercing the audience to use its own imagination to fill in the blanks. By eschewing state-of-the-art effects to tell the story, the filmmakers have insured that Paranormal Activity 2, like its predecessor, has a timelessness that will make it just as scary 50 years from now.

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Nick Rodriguez


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