The first Paranormal Activity relied on tension and a slow burn approach in effectively administering its scares. Coupled with the fact that it also kept you second guessing as to what it was, the film was unlike anything anyone had ever experienced (not too mention a phenomenon was created in the process). And when all was said and done, it was one of the most original and well done horror films I'd seen in quite some time. So, as is most oftentimes the case when a film breaks through to the mainstream, Hollywood was quick to get a sequel fired up. And for most, including myself, visions of Blair Witch 2 danced in our heads. So does the film deliver? A big fat resounding 'NO' from this reviewer. Note: massive spoilers abound. You've been warned.
The film is a prequel of sorts, focusing on the family of Katie. More specifically, her sister, brother in-law, step niece, and newborn baby nephew. Along with a Spanish housekeeper and the family dog, they come home one day to find that their house is broken into, furniture and belongings strewn about but no valuables are taken. Instead of calling authorities, they hire a security company to install cameras so hopefully they can catch them next time in the act. Along with the teenage step niece and father working the newly purchased family handicam, they set out to catch these non-stealing, house messer uppers.
So of course, strange things start happening: the pool vacuum is found every morning, inexplicably finding its way out of the pool; pots falling off ceiling hangers, doors closing by themselves, yadda yadda. And we also see that whatever is in the house has a fixation on the new born baby boy (who by this time has jumped from one scene in being brought home as a baby to now a toddler, a serious lapse in time that is never really explained but we accept at face value).
The teenage daughter being freaked out, starts researching ghosts and concludes that it's a demon and that her family must have made some sort of deal with it. This is supposed to build some sort of mythos but it comes off as just plain silly and escaping all sense of logic. Why would you deduce that after only witnessing a couple of odd things happening and reading an interwebs page?
Anywhos, so we now know that this demon is after the baby (why not just take the baby? why all the pranks and shenanigans?) and somehow it's tied to the history of the family. Our onscreen drama unfolds and is wratched up nightly much like the first with the scares employed being exactly the same. OK, minus one in broad daylight that made me jump. But still, same schtick, different film.
As the film draws to a close, we are supposed to be shocked by the ending but we're not, as its pretty much the same ending to the first film. Coupled with the fact that we have this convoluted mythos which is built and the exact same scares employed but with different characters (admittedly, more likeable), what you have is a repeat of the original and overall, a big ol' stinky crap salad.
I love the found footage sub-genre and I'm a sucker for these types of films. But PA2 ditches what made the first so successful (slow burn, genuine tension) and plugs in the same set of scares that worked the first go around but you see coming a mile away now as we know the formula. Really, there is no deviation.
Ah, and I see part 3 is already in the works. Here's to hoping that more inventive scares are coming and a less prank wanky demon.
Cortez the Killer
P.S. For some reason, no embeddable trailers exist on YouTube. So if you haven't seen the trailer yet, you'll have to do your own interwebs digging. Maybe you can go to WebMDoIHaveADemonFollowingMe?.com while you're looking. You know, just in case you've ever wondered and want to self-diagnose.