After the success of Paranormal Activity there was always going to be a sequel. As we go back into the haunted house with another found-footage film, how does the latest hold up?
It was inevitable that Paranormal Activity would receive a sequel after it wowed audiences with its cheap but effective scares. The ‘found footage’ sub-genre of horror cinema is an exciting and popular concept for film producers and audiences alike thanks to its low budgetary requirements and simplistic thrills. Films such as REC and its American remake Quarantine are utilising the techniques established in The Macpherson Tapes, The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project to produce a brand of horror film that strikes a chord with audiences because of its haunting familiarity with our own home videos. Never has the genre so easily nestled its way under the skin with the sense that this could really happen than with the ‘found footage’ film.
Paranormal Activity 2 is interesting in that the events depicted in the film happen around the events of the first film. Although it is not necessary to have seen the original, a knowledge of the initial story does help in the appreciation of this one. The film begins with a couple welcoming a newborn baby boy into the family. The boy’s mother Kristi is the sister of Katie, the girl from the first film. A year passes and the family come home to find the house has been trashed but nothing stolen. They install a security system to monitor the house and, as in the first film, strange, paranormal events begin occurring.
The film is definitely an effective thriller. A child staring off into space, ignoring his mother who is trying to gain his attention; a dog barking at the door; a pan falling from a rack in the kitchen; all innocuous in themselves but which manage to creep under the skin given the context of the events. Director Tod Williams uses the seemingly innocuous occurrence of a door slamming shut (of which father Daniel judges to be an unfortunate factor of the wind) to gradually build the tension before the big shocks come later. He also utilises the security system and family home video to maintain the pace, cutting between the two for dramatic effect. Certainly, the haphazard home video footage has an authenticity that heightens the horror, while Williams turns the suspense up a notch with some claustrophobic, uneven camerawork that gives the film an air of hysteria.
But it’s the security cameras that provide the most fun. Williams has us viewing them for long periods, enticing you to check every corner of the screen for something nasty. The beauty is that you never know where the paranormal activity is going to occur, let alone when or how.
But a criticism I have levelled at ‘found footage’ films is that they can feel over-produced and fake. It was the fatal flaw of Cloverfield. Paranormal Activity 2 doesn’t suffer from this, indeed, it suffers from the exact opposite. Where the first film trumps its sequel is in how it put the events that were occurring into context – the strange fire at the sisters’ home, the long-lost photo found in the attic, the internet footage of a previous possession, Katie’s mysterious history with haunting and the paranormal investigator’s hasty escape. Paranormal Activity 2 only provides us with a cursory idea behind the family’s ordeal and falls down in trying to continue the story of the first film. As such, the open ending, which begs for another sequel, is a let down.
Yet, Paranormal Activity 2 still has plenty to please. Williams keeps the tension high and makes use of at least two great set-pieces that will have audiences jumping in their seats with mouths wide open. The film also motors along thanks to superb editing that is knowledgeable of the craft without detracting from the authentic effect of home video. Paranormal Activity 2 might not reach the thrilling heights of the original Oren Peli film but it is, nonetheless, one of the more effective ‘found footage’ horror films out there.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews
Directed by: Tod Williams
Written by: Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, Tom Pabst
Starring: Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Seth Ginsberg, Sprague Grayden, Micah Sloat
Released: 2010 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
Buy on DVD:
Amazon.co.uk: DVD | Blu-ray
More reviews: Latest | Archive
Discover More: Top 10 films to have driven people to murder
This review is part of 31 Days of Horror: