Directed by: Tod Williams
I loved Paranormal Activity 1, i still do, but i was really not very interested in seeing a second installment created. Once the second movie went into production, i was mildly interested, but pretty much sure it would be a mess. Now with PA2 released, i was surprised to see yet ANOTHER slew of strong reviews [just like movie 1] commenting on what a good job the producers have done a second time around. Although the buzz was great, i still went into PA2 with an open mind, but low exceptions.
I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of the film, in fact, it worked better as a film than movie 1 did at times.
The first PA relied solely on atmosphere and scares. There was a bit of background about the characters who were experiencing the demonic haunting, but overall, it was a fairly low key plot based movie that was all about what happened to a couple on a daily basis, rather than a big story. That wasn't a bad thing, in fact, it worked perfectly in the first film. In PA2 however, we get the usual things that made the first movie so effective, as well as a more fleshed out storyline.
Visually and atmospherically, PA2 is pretty much the same as PA1, and in a way that detracts from how effective the movie can be at times. In PA1, you weren't sure what to expect, you didn't know how anything would look or feel, it was a NEW experience. In PA2, you know what the playing field is like this time around. You know about the night cam, the slow build ups, the endless daytime goings on between characters, and the types of "bumps" and "bangs" that occur over the course of the haunting. Still, as less fresh as some moments can be, the feeling of danger and dread is still effective, just not as strong.
What really separates part 2 from part 1 is the connections between story lines between both films. It keeps things interesting. This time, you actually KNOW something about these people because of what happened in the first film. That familiarity brings on a new kind of creep factor, which puts a different spin on how you feel about what you see on screen. It's not fear of the unknown anymore, it's the KNOWING that actually makes you ask more questions because you are aware of what to expect.
Scare tactic familiarity aside, there are some genuinely creepy moments in this movie. Although the budget for the film has been duplicated by 10, they still keep everything fairly realistic and minimal when it comes to what we see on screen. The sudden creaks in the dead of night, and the intimidating thuds that rattle the house grab a strong hold of the viewer all over again. But it's the more over the top events that make the audience REALLY have a lot of fun. In fact, one scene in particular in the kitchen scared the living day lights out of me, and the ending of the film really keeps you on the edge of your seat.
As i mentioned before, the story does open up a lot more which for me is what really pushes this movie from a 3/5 to a 4. Without spoiling anything, there are a couple very cool twists that occur throughout the film that i didn't expect. The story also gets a bit more of a fleshed out background, while still not revealing too much. In PA1 we were dealing only with a young girl, this time, the haunting spreads out and reveals a lot more about the family Katie from PA1 came from. I actually REALLY look forward to seeing how deep they take this story, because there's some seriously interesting and creepy history behind why all this demonic evil is happening. I won;t say anything else though, best to go in with as little knowledge as possible.
One major complaint i heard from fans of the first PA was the cast. A lot of people found Katie and Meka rather annoying. Personally, they didn't bother me. This time around though, i think the characters are a little more likable, especially the young teenage girl in the family who actually TRIES to find out wtf is going on. The addition of the dog and baby make the stakes a bit higher as well.
PA2 really could have gone down the wrong path, but i'm surprised to say that they have taken the story into a pretty cool direction. There are still unanswered questions, and enough mystery to keep things fresh for a 3rd film, but the scares come second to story development this time around, which works in the sequels favor because it doesn't make it pointless.
If you didn't like part 1, there's nothing new for you here. If you liked PA1 and are curious for more, definitely give this a go. I hope this becomes a trilogy, i'm having a really great time with this series for now. Blair Witch 2, THIS AIN'T, the critics are rights, see it.