‘Paranormal Activity 2’ – A Competent But Derivative Sequel
The main thing wrong with Paranormal Activity 2 is that we’ve definitely seen it all before. In fact, we saw the same thing in the first Paranormal Activity. This time as the film progresses we learn that it’s a prequel to the events that happened in the first film. The Rey family is haunted by an unseen entity that appears to be there for one reason and that is for the couples newborn son. We know this because their daughter Ali did research on the internet on just that sorta thing. Isn’t the World Wide Web grand?
As is the case in any ghost story there is always a doubting Thomas. In this case make it a doubting Daniel, the husband. Everything weird thing has an explanation. The pot fell off the hook it was hanging from? It wasn’t hung properly. The pool cleaner is out of the pool every night for a week? The settings are too high. This kind of thing really upsets Kristie, his wife. She’s actually his second wife. We learn from a conversation he has with Ali that his first wife is deceased. They don’t go into detail; Ali just mentions that she thinks the house being haunted would be cool because then she could talk to her mom.
In this 2010 prequel to the famed found footage hit, the ‘Paranormal Activity’ formula is reused to diminishing returns. When a new family becomes targeted by a demonic presence, the requisite night-vision cameras capture the strange occurrences. But a been-there-done-that tedium permeates the proceedings, proving lightning rarely strikes twice.
Moving the setting to the luxurious home of a well-to-do couple, their newborn, and two teenagers, ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ hits the same narrative beats. Ominous thuds and spectral footprints escalate toward overt supernatural manifestations, as one skeptic dismisses each incident despite mounting terror.
With its slow-burn pacing and fixed cameras, an identical mood of nighttime unease prevails. But the sense of novelty is gone, replaced by a checklist familiarity. The occasional kinetic stunt, like a panicked dog or toppling kitchen cabinet, briefly energizes the monotony.
While slickly executed, the film lacks inspiration, content to coast on the first film’s coattails. ‘Paranormal Activity’ became a phenomenon by feeling raw and unpredictable. The sequel’s polish only clarifies how the stripped-down original achieved so much.
A competent retread rather than a revelation, ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ proves the most frightening discoveries can’t be engineered, only captured. Once the paranormal is formulaic, the terror is gone.
There are a few genuine jumps and jolts in the film. There is also a scene that is very reminiscent of the first film. The most annoying thing is how repetitive the film can be. The cameras that are installed throughout the house (and through which we the audience are the voyeurs in the Rey household) go through the same pattern each and every night. It wouldn’t have killed the filmmakers to do a change-up every now and then.
Paranormal Activity 2 is not a bad film. It’s not a great film. It’s one of those films that when you watch it, you just know that you’ve seen done before, and better.