MOVIE: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

I was having a crappy day last Saturday, so I decided in the afternoon to flee the house and hit a movie.  One of my favorite movie reviewers, Slate’s Dana Stevens, had just posted her opinion of this flick, and when she said she thought it was a blast, I knew it was a safe bet for me too.  As it turns out, we were both right.  Go us!

This movie serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the first Paranormal Activity.  The bulk of the story is set a few months before the original film, with the final scene set the day after.  Because of this, it is, I’m afraid, an absolute prerequisite that you’ve seen the first one.  Two of the three 15 year-old girls I smuggled into this R-rated movie (“Um, yeah, I’m her big sister. . .”) hadn’t seen the original and therefore spent the entire 90 minutes alternating between screams of terror and obnoxious questions like, “Wait, who’s that guy?”   It was pretty damn annoying, frankly.  And so, when I say “prerequisite,” mind you I’m saying it mainly for the sake of others in the theater who would like to be left to watch the film in peace. Keep your questions to yourself.  Write ’em down, Google ’em later.

For those that saw PA1, a quick reminder:  it was about a young couple, Katie and Micah, who suspected they were being haunted by some kind of spirit.  They set up a video camera in their bedroom and began to record the nights, watching the footage together each morning.  They monkeyed with a Ouija board, because they were idiots who never watched horror movies.  And gradually, they began to realize not only that they were, in fact, truly being haunted, but that the spirit was an evil one out to get them.  Hints were dropped that it was something Katie had seen before, as a little girl sharing a room with her younger sister, Kristi.  And eventually, the evil demon spirit got super-duper mad and all hell broke loose.  Litrilly.

Paranormal Activity 2 focuses on Katie’s sister Kristi and her husband and two kids — a teenage daughter (her step-daughter) and the couple’s new baby, a boy named Hunter.  Essentially, it’s the same story as the first film:  haunted house, escalating violence, bloody denouement.  But this time, we get a little more of an idea of what the Bad Thing is doing there, as well as what it wants.

The story is hardly the point, though, right?  What you really want to know is whether or not it’s scary.  The answer to that is a yes and a no from me.  That is, no, it didn’t scare me in the way really, really good scary movies scare me.  It’s not a problem I could relate to, not believing in demons, and therefore not something that dug into me in a personal way.

However, the movie is perfectly crafted to make even the most jaded horror movie fan jump three feet into the air roughly every ten minutes.  It’s loaded with those moments I call “BOO!” moments, when things are quiet, quiet, quiet, and then KAZAM! something suddenly happens outta nowhere and your brain throws your body instantaneously into flight mode.  Upwards.  At one point near the end, I was convinced one of those 15 year-old girls I snuck in was going to jump into my lap and stay there for the rest of her life.  This, I would say, is a fairly good quality in a scary movie.

The other thing I liked about PA2 was the way it was set up.  This time, instead of a single, hand-held camera, perched on a tripod at night (as in the original), this family has about four security cameras set up in the house, thinking initially that their problem is a pesky human being.  That means that every night, when the world goes dark, what we see is a rotation through each camera — a steady cycling for a minute or two through each location.  Cut to the pool — everything’s quiet at the pool.  Cut to the kitchen — everything’s quiet at the kitchen.  Cut to the staircase — everything’s quiet at the staircase.  Cut to the baby’s room — mostly quiet, though the dog looks distressed (dogs always know, don’t they? Dogs, babies, and Catholic nannies).   Cut back to the pool — everything’s quiet at the. . . holy shit, THAT ain’t natural!!

It’s the perfect set-up for what is, essentially, a 90-minute series of loud-quiet-loud gimmickry designed to keep you precariously perched on the edge of your seat.  And man, does it ever work.

If you’re looking for a Halloween movie this weekend, in other words, I think you’ve got your flick.  Recommended!

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Horror, Ghosts
Cast:  Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Sprague Grayden, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

Tags: ,

8 Responses to “MOVIE: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)”

  1. Trip Says:

    So wow, “The Walking Dead”, huh? Not bad for a pilot, I like the use of a tank as a survival shelter, makes total sense.

    Major pet peeve though: the lack of sufficient astonishment at the apocalyptic event by a main character, in this case, the deputy.

    Wake up in a hospital – hey, that’s weird, the dead walk! How about that? Army choppers outside…obvious signs of violent cataclysm…the guy takes in the news like he just found out Home Depot’s actually open until 8 PM rather than 7 PM. Not once does he ask anyone “WTF happened while I was asleep?!” Not even after hearing “don’t get bit” and the mention of the frickin’ CDC is enough to get his curiosity up.

    Other than that, though, it looks great, and I likes me a good zombie apocapylse, so I want to see where they go with all this.

  2. Liz Says:

    Okay, Trip, stop with the spoilers, already. SOME of us have the show on DVR, but haven’t seen it yet! (What the heck – your views are always valuable.) Hey, maybe there will be some good quotes!

    Also, TO THOSE WHO MENTIONED IDEAS about recording “Dead Set,” THANK YOU! I THINK I got them all in a row, when they were re-broadcast on IFC, on Friday.

  3. RogerBW Says:

    I will respect the implicit spoiler policy (at least until there’s a thread for talking about this show) but I’ll say that I enjoyed it and will keep watching for now.

  4. megwood Says:

    Oh man, Trip, I had sooooo many quibbles like that. I started yelling the moment the little girl’s feet shuffled past the car in the opening scene and he was all, “Why, hello there, little girl!”

    What’re you, NEW?

    But despite the nit-pickery, I still had a blast watching it. Definitely excited to see what comes next. Been a while since I felt actual ANTICIPATION about a TV show. I’m ridin’ the wave, for real.

  5. Liz Says:

    I SCREWED UP on recording “Dead Set!” Phooey! They aired the first 4 all in a row … and then, the finale about an hour or so later … AND I DIDN’T KNOW IT! As soon as I heard on the recording that the finale would be on later, I turned it off, figuring, no sense getting more invested in the characters when I knew I had missed the last ep! I HOPE I got “The Walking Dead” recorded correctly! (I’m totally using DVR now, so I have to get used to the idea that these shows are NOT being taped on VHS; I seem to have missed “Tivo” completely.)

    Incidentally, I was trying to be humourous when I was complaining about “spoilers.” Trip, your comments are always great, and RogerBW, yours are, too. This is MEG’S Blog, and she had never made any kind of “rules” about content of comments – just one or two requests. And I know she gets a lot of CRAP that she has to delete from her pages. I certainly have no right to complain about what anyone else says. Most of us “cyber-friends” (and I do rather consider you all “friends”) try to avoid doing too much “spoiling,” but I know I’m taking a risk by recording everything, to watch later. You know – how far behind is TOO far behind?

    In the part of “Dead Set” that I watched, there were 2 quotes that I liked. One was when a rather boorish guy took a look at a zombie “chowing down,” and said – before running away – “Oh dear!” The other was when the “Big Brother” group was surveying the carnage around them, and the blond bimbo-type said, “Does this mean we’re not on Telly anymore?” 🙂

    Looking forward to “The Walking Dead,” but I bet the better quotes are from more comical treatments. Still, I expect I’ll enjoy it!

  6. megwood Says:

    Liz, you are often too adorable for words.

    I bet IFC will continue to rerun it, though — keep your DVR set to record it whenever it shows up and you should eventually catch everything.

    I love how no matter what I write about, the comments are almost never actually about THAT. You guys are the best readers ever. I’m about to post a book review about adoption, so somebody hop over there later and get me started on the remake of True Grit. Because, like, naturally.

    (Speaking of which: TRUE GRIT!! Looks awesome.)

  7. Trip Says:

    Just the mention of the new True Grit makes me tingly.

    This popped into my head just now: what if the Coen brothers were directing Tron Legacy and Disney was doing True Grit in 3D?

  8. melindam Says:

    Wait, what?? Remake of True Grit???? What rock have I been hiding under?!?! Although I think El Dorado may be my favorite…. (I have given up on italics. Just pretend they’re there.)

    I’m still trying to decide if my pansy-self (grrrrrr, stupid pansy-self) is up to watching zombie flicks now that I have no roommates. Especially since just reading the graphic novels for Walking Dead was pretty crazy intense. Maybe tomorrow, when I’m supposed to be cleaning on my random holiday, I will instead watch zombie gore and knit a baby jacket.

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