Title: Paranormal Activity 2
What Was The First One About Again? Nothing much, just this woman who neglected to tell her husband that a demon has been stalking her since childhood.
Cast: Nobody you've ever heard of, which supposedly adds to the film's "authenticity."
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three out of five agitated German shepherds.
Tagline: "Nothing can prepare you for what's next."
Better Tagline: "Put the fucking camera down and get out of the house."
Brief Synopsis: The Rey family has it all: a lovely house in southern California, a brand new surveillance system, and a demon with an unhealthy fixation on their newborn son.
Come to think of it, is any demonic fixation not unhealthy?
Not So Brief Synopsis: The events here take place roughly two months before Paranormal Activity, though there is some wraparound.The Reys -- father Daniel, wife Kristi (sister to PA's Katie), Dan's daughter Ali, and newborn son Hunter -- suffer an apparent break-in after they bring Hunter home. Nothing is stolen, but the crime prompts Dan to install security cameras to keep an eye on things and provide us with a convenient framing device for the scaaary events to come. As things escalate from bumps in the night to outright assault, the family is forced to accept they have a demon in their midst, and decide what if anything can be done to stop it.
Does The Kid Die? That would be telling.
What About The Dog? Ha, I knew it. You really only care about the dog. Insensitive pricks.
"Critical" Analysis: The Paranormal Activity series (and make no mistake, there will be a third and probably more) belongs to what I like to call the Pixies School of Horror Filmmaking. Everything starts out very quiet, then suddenly gets REALLY GODDAMNED LOUD before getting quiet and then REALLY LOUD again. The initial silence of the cameras as they monitor the house is meant to amplify the tension, just as they did in the first movie, so when something does suddenly happen it's that much more alarming.
And it works...to a point. There's more of a slow burn here than in the first film, perhaps because the filmmakers realized no family would stick around if the same shenanigans (creepy sleepwalking, people getting dragged down the hallway) were happening around their baby. Once the paranormal shit really hits the fan, the pace picks up considerably, but all this after a good 60 or 70 minutes or build-up.
Creator Oren Peli and crew have obviously developed an extended mythology with regards to...whatever it is that's stalking Katie and Kristi's family. Adding Abby the dog and Hunter the baby also helps us develop some empathy for the characters, since Micah and Katie were -- let's face it -- pretty annoying in the first movie. Like Micah before him, dad Dan is skeptical, but is less of a jackass about it. Whoever plays teen daughter Ali also helps ground things with a matter-of-fact portrayal.
And I like how all Hispanics are apparently well-versed in the art of banishing evil spirits. Listen to your Guatemalan nannies, people.
Again, the pacing is what keeps a lot of Paranormal Activity 2 from veering into serious eye-rolling territory. I'm sure the gradual build-up will annoy some people, but it solves the biggest problem of the first movie, namely: why don't you just get the hell out of the house? Sure, the demon's going to follow Katie, but it obviously takes a few years for it to pick up the scent. In the meantime, track down the demon hunter dude and put an end to things. That's never an option here, and it's a better film because of it.
So How Scary Is It? There are probably five or six healthy scares, most of which are the result, once again, of the sudden occurrence of something SURPRISINGLY LOUD. That'll wring some appreciable screams from your audience, but it won't put PA2 alongside the classics of the genre.
Then again, if it grosses another $200 million worldwide, who really cares?
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Number Of Babies In The Theater: Three. At a 9PM screening. Of a horror movie. Stay classy, Houston.
See It/Rent It/Skip It See it. PA2 isn't going to stick with you very long once the lights come up, but experiencing it in a crowd is pretty gratifying.
Paranormal Activity 2 is in theaters today. See it with a bunch of adolescent girls and some decent earplugs.