How nice! The arrival of a new baby! Mama Kristi Rey (veteran televison actor, Sprague Grayden) brings the newest family member, Hunter, home. With the new baby, Dad Daniel (Brian Boland: THE UNBORN), re-starts his life with a new family, though his teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) from a previous marriage remains in the nest.
This is seen on home video as the carry-over from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and its artifice of cinema-verite continues. There are large but not jarring jumps through time until, at one point, the house is broken into, everything is trashed, but curiously, the only thing actually missing is Kristi's necklace.
This is so upsetting that Papa Daniel springs for an expensive home security camera system. Cameras all over the exterior and interior of the house. Of course I can see where that's going but hey, I'm along for the ride!
Over the course of a few months, the cameras reveal that something really weird is going on in the house. Not simply something unexplainable, but inexplainable - unless you believe in supernatural entities.
Katie (Katie Featherston: MUTATION, WALKING DISTANCE) and Micah (Micah Sloat) enter the picture and in some ways, the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is more fleshed out thanks to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. It seems that both sisters had some really bizarre things happen to them in their shared childhood, with Kristi initially sharing the brunt of it. while both try to reason it out and laugh it off, soon they are consoling each other, trying to figure out what has come back to haunt their lives and why.
As both Kristi and Ali are witness first hand to the unexplainable smashing of pots, opening and shutting of doors, and the strange behavoir of their pet dog toward baby Hunter's bathroom, daniel tries to keep it altogether by refusing to accept anything out of the ordinary. Even when he goes through the camera recorded footage and sees realy strange things happening around his house, he still tries to rationalize the impossible.
Of course this means that the supernatural disturbances are only going to get much worse.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 is neither a true prequel or a sequel, as it is supposed to run concurrently during the same period as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. PA2 is the story of what was happening to sister Kristi and her family while Katie and Micah were going through their own frightening adventure.
As before, the biggest special effect is nothing more than stage hands opening and closing doors and other "gags". The biggest difference is, with PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, it was noticed that older adults with children didn't respond near as well as singles and young childless couples. PA2 takes care of the family angle, as parents can readily identify with the horror of unexplainable, unstoppable danger threatening your children.
Working off of a story and script by veteran televison writer and producer, Michael R. Perry (EERIE, INDIANA [TV], AMERICAN GOTHIC [TV], MILLENNIUM [TV], FREAKYLINKS [TV], Stephen King's DEAD ZONE [TV], PERSONS UNKNOWN [TV]) along with fellow screenplay writers Christopher B. Landon (BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, DISTURBIA) and Tom Pabst, Director Tod Williams ventured out of his preferred genre of drama and mystery and adds Horror to his resume.
To his credit, Tod absolutely brings the frights! If this was the first movie, I'd be giving it all 5 Shriek Girls and the sequel PA a four.
So why the difference if both are as good? Because PA2 is an extension of PA in a way that good sequels are not. ALIENS is a sequel to ALIEN but while having the same monsters, takes a significantly different approach to its subject matter. It doesn't just extend the story, it expands it. TERMINATOR 2 was the same way (here I go praising James Cameron again - it can't be helped!).
Changing the parties involved from an unwed couple to a family was a good idea. Ridding the movie of as much queasy cam as possible by having remote but virtually static security cameras was also a very good idea. Fleshing out the story a bit more was also a good idea but these are all extensions. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY doesn't tell a new story with the same people, places, or things. It tells the same story with the same people and additional cast members. New ground isn't being broken here.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 feels like that. A single story broke into two parts. The difference is, movies like THE LORD OF THE RINGS and KILL BILL needed their sequels to finish the story. PA2 wasn't needed.
There are also moments where the camera feels too staged, neither security camera or someone, anyone, recording a home movie. Whenever that happened, it popped me out of the film experience, since such great pains were created to make the audience feel as if tey were only watching "found" video.
And yet, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 is possibly one of the best sequels ever made, being an excellent companion to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY! Kudos to whoever was responsible for bringing in an experienced Horror Thriller writer like Michael R. Perry. Kudos also to Oren Peli and David Blum for staying on top of it and not letting PA sink into sequels by committee.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 has the legs, the mythos, to become the new annual Halloween movie, though all involved will have to seriously up the ante (without destroying it), so that audiences won't feel that they are just being served more helpings of the same delicious dish.
4 Shriek Girls.
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