Sunday 7 November 2010

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Bigger budget, more actors, more rooms, more cameras, but alas, also more predictable.

This prequel to Paranormal Activity covers events 60 days prior to the original film. Kristi (Sprague Graydon) and her husband Dan (Brian Boland) have a new baby boy named Hunter. Also living with them is Ali (Molly Ephraim), Dan's teen-aged daughter from a previous marriage. Kristi and Dan are occasionally visited by Kristi's sister Katie (Katie Featherstone), whom we got to know in the first film.

Soon after Hunter's birth, an unusual break-in results in the house of Kristi and Dan being trashed, but nothing is stolen. As a precaution they install surveillance cameras throughout the house. The rest of the movie is mostly shown from the perspective of these cameras, as things starts going bump in the night, strange unexplained events gradually become more dangerous as a demon appears intent on terrorizing the family. A crescendo of horror results in Kristi, Dan and Ali confronting the evil spirit, and a background story that somewhat explains the events of both films is revealed.

Since the formula was well established in the first movie, Paranormal Activity 2 is quickly victimized by a sense of deja-vu. Despite a relatively short running time of just 90 minutes, director Tod Williams is unable to prevent the film from dragging with endless and repetitive shots of static surveillance cameras punctuated by predictable sudden loud noises or doors opening slowly or slamming abruptly.

While the original film was able to happily focus on just Katie and her boyfriend Micah, the prequel needs to deal with Kristi, Dan, their kids Hunter and Ali, their housekeeper Martine, their dog Abby, and the occasional visits from Katie and Micah. Putting a young child (Hunter) at significant risk of bodily harm is an interesting and unhinging challenge to horror movie conventions, but the scattered focus among the adults, and particularly the relatively clumsy transition of the movie's core from Kristi to Ali, reduces the film's impact. And a pivotal scene towards the end with Kristi, Dan, Ali and Hunter in the dark basement is botched to the point of incomprehension.

And not to nit-pick, but a demon capable of the carnage on display as a result of the early house break-in could have achieved its objectives in 5 additional minutes of film time, rather than the 90 minutes that we are asked to endure.

Sprague Graydon as Kristi and Molly Ephraim as Ali are watchable and maintain a reasonable level of interest, but otherwise, as horror movies go, the activity has unfortunately and quickly transitioned from paranormal to quite normal.

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