It seems like only yesterday I was walking out of a midnight screening of Paranormal Activity and finding myself dumbfounded that so many people were calling it one of the scariest movies of all time. It seemed to me that all the buzz surrounding it was unwarranted. That’s not to say I have nerves of steel because it certainly crept under my skin. There were moments where my heart raced and my anticipation for what was coming next kept me in a state of anxiety. But then it began to repeat its scare tactics and by the fourth and fifth time I saw the main character crawl out of bed and loom over her boyfriend for hours on end as he slept, I became numb. My fear turned to boredom and the idiotic Hollywood horror ending left me with a feeling of disappointment. Well, Paranormal Activity 2 isn’t only good; it’s better and scarier than the original.
The events depicted in this film run more or less parallel to the last and the story brings back Katie, the poor girl who was haunted by the demon in the first movie. Her sister has just moved into a new house in California with her husband, her teenage girl and her little baby boy, Hunter. After they arrive home one day and find their house ransacked presumably by a burglar, they decide to install multiple cameras in their house (rather than an alarm, which is totally the normal thing to do). Before they know it, those cameras are picking up strange occurrences and they begin to believe something unseen is after them.
Just to clarify, Paranormal Activity 2 suffers from the same issues as its predecessor. It is by no means a perfect movie and not worthy of standing alongside horror’s heavy hitters like The Exorcist, Psycho and the original Halloween. But given the state of horror these days, where tension, slow builds and genuine scares are replaced by torn off limbs and buckets of blood, it stands above the crowd.
One of the big reasons Paranormal Activity lost its freshness as it went on is because virtually all of the scares came from the static camera set up in the same spot in the same room every night. It tried to switch things up, but its flexibility was limited. This sequel ups the ante. There are no less than six cameras positioned in this family’s household and each night, we see every angle. This keeps us on our toes, guessing what will happen next and where, and because of this ability to move the hauntings around the house, the scares stay unpredictable.
To coincide with this intent to move things forward, the filmmakers also expand the character roster. Rather than one person receiving the brunt of the hauntings as in the original, everybody gets a taste here. The characters all see, hear and experience things they’d rather not and the innocence of the baby, unaware of what’s going on around him and unable to fight back, keeps things interesting. There’s even a dog in the movie that, as is the case with most horror movie animals, can sense the paranormal activity going on around him and works as our eyes, staring and barking in the direction of the demon, even though we can’t see it ourselves.
Sequels, by their very nature, are usually not as original as their predecessors and the same holds true here. Many of the tricks used in Paranormal Activity are duplicated (shadows, loud bumps, objects moving mysteriously, doors opening and closing), but what that movie failed to do was keep things varied, of which this sequel does a better job. The concept may not be as fresh, but the film itself is and it stays fresh throughout its runtime. Paranormal Activity 2 does exactly what it should and satisfyingly expands on the original.
Paranormal Activity 2 receives 4/5