Dir: Tod Williams. US. 2010. 91mins
The invisible demon that haunted Paranormal Activity has returned – and this time he’s armed with a slightly better script. Battling the expectations of fans who turned the 2009 original into a sleeper hit, this found-footage horror sequel essentially repeats the first film’s creepy formula, but its improved acting and plotting help counteract the lack of conceptual freshness that’s inevitable with a second go-round.
Much like with the first Paranormal Activity, 2 is more fun in its first half, which is all malicious tease and foreboding hints as the menace begins to close in on the family.
Opening this weekend in the US, UK and across Europe, Paranormal Activity 2 will almost certainly have a strong initial showing. With only Saw 3D as its Halloween horror competition, this Paramount release should enjoy two robust weekends, and then it will be up to word-of-mouth to determine if 2 can reproduce (or even top) the original’s $193m worldwide take.
The new film takes place in the months before the events of the original, introducing us to married couple Daniel (Brian Boland) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden), who is the sister of Katie (Katie Featherston) from the first film. When the couple, their teenage daughter (Molly Ephraim) and newborn baby start to encounter strange nocturnal happenings in their Southern California home, Kristi becomes convinced that their house is haunted.
As with the 2009 original, which was written and directed by Oren Peli, Paranormal Activity 2 purports to be a nonfiction film compiled of footage shot by the subjects before they mysteriously disappeared. This sequel, directed by The Door In The Floor helmer Tod Williams, expands the footage sources, however, drawing on the house’s security surveillance cameras and the family’s digital camcorder.
While there are still moments where the technique feels forced – such as when Kristi and her sister have a serious heart-to-heart about their troubled childhood while one of them films – the sequel improves on the original by offering more vantage points into more rooms, opening up the story without sacrificing any of the tension as viewers nervously scan the screen for hints of terror.
Though the sequel inherently lacks the novelty of the first film, Williams and his three screenwriters compensate by presenting more three-dimensional characters than the original offered. Boland, Grayden and Ephraim all deliver thoroughly stripped-down and naturalistic performances that feel completely genuine to the slowly building horror that’s transpiring around them.
Much like with the first Paranormal Activity, 2 is more fun in its first half, which is all malicious tease and foreboding hints as the menace begins to close in on the family. But even if the finale doesn’t live up to all that’s come before, the filmmakers do a reasonably good job of finding clever and unexpected ways to tie the incidents in the two movies together.
Production companies: Blumhouse Productions, Solana Films, Room 101, Inc.
Worldwide distribution: Paramount, www.paramount.com
Producers: Jason Blum, Oren Peli
Executive producers: Steven Schneider, Akiva Goldsman
Screenplay: Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, Tom Pabst (story by Michael R. Perry) (based on the film Paranormal Activity by Oren Peli)
Cinematography: Michael Simmonds
Production designer: Jennifer Spence
Editor: Gregory Plotkin
Main cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim,Sprague Grayden