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April 2011

Paranormal Activity 2

cast: Michael R. Perry, Christopher B. Landon, Tom Pabst, Brian Boland, and Sprague Grayden

director: Tod Williams

91 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Paramount DVD Region 2

RATING: 4/10
review by Matthew S. Dent

Paranormal Activity 2

The first Paranormal Activity caused rather a stir when it was released. When I saw it at the cinema, it was probably the most populated screening I've been to. There was lots of excitement, screaming at the relevant parts, and everyone left saying how good it was. Everyone except me, who left rather bored and mystified by the whole thing.

The whole mockumentary horror film isn't new concept. It's been executed with varying levels of success, from dog's breakfast of the Blair Witch films, to the actually chilling [REC], and The Last Exorcism. The first Paranormal Activity fell towards the Blair Witch end of the spectrum, primarily because of pacing issues. So does Paranormal Activity 2 improve on this?

Well, not really. The problem is that there is still too much extraneous material. The first film would have worked well as a short film - somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour - and I do feel the same with the sequel. There was too much that didn't need to be in the film, that didn't further the story, and which actually got in the way of the atmosphere they were trying to create.

The storyline will be familiar to anyone who has seen the first film: a household is tormented with increasingly serious paranormal interventions by a ghost/ demon/ invisible thing with an attitude problem. This time though, the story centres around a young family, Daniel (Brian Boland) and Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden) and their new son Hunter (William Juan Prieto and Jackson Xenia Prieto), as well as Daniel's teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim).

In terms of horror, it relies heavily on sudden shocks to scare - and fill the cinema with screaming viewers, for trailer footage. And that's all well and good, but it gets old very quickly, and without much in the way of atmosphere building, it feels like we're only getting half a film. I'd prefer for them to have cut out some of the footage intended to show time passing - particularly unnecessary since the surveillance camera footage is all time-stamped, and put in some deeper horror as well as the jumps.

I will say that some of the jumps are effective. In particular the moment I can only describe as the 'kitchen sneeze' was quite impressive, and did make me jump. And the way that the story slots into that of the first film, which I have purposefully neglected to mention in my summary, was quite well done. But really, when it comes down to it, Paranormal Activity 2 just left me feeling unmoved. A lot of the set pieces I had seen before in the first film and it seemed each time there is a shock coming it is telegraphed by a calm so obvious as to part-neutralise any surprise. Horror mockumentary can be done well, and has been done well, just not overwhelmingly so with this film.



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