Paranormal Activity 2
October 28, 2010
Sure, Paranormal Activity 2 offers nothing more than roller-coaster thrills, but what’s not to love about roller coasters?
The parents of a new baby come home with something extra wrapped up with their bundle of joy: fear. Soon after the birth of their son, Hunter, Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Daniel (Brian Boland) return home to find a house that’s been broken into without any signs of forced entry. The fearful couple has cameras installed all over the house, but instead of capturing mischievous kids or home robbers, the cameras reveal the consequences of an invisible force. It is what Kristi and Daniel do not see that frightens them.
I’ll be the first to admit that the plot of Paranormal Activity 2 is shallow and has a few holes that still need explanation at the end. I will also admit that I didn’t care, not even a little. I am not even ashamed to admit that I caught myself ratcheting my neck, attempting to see around doors on screen to see who was standing behind them or who was coming up the stairs. I gleefully let director Tod Williams grab me by the hand and lead me around. Paranormal Activity 2 is pointless, silly, popcorn-munching fun that allows the audience members’ own imaginations to freak them out.
Most of the camera work in Paranormal Activity 2 is done at security-camera angles—high above the room. The fact that the cameras don’t move lends a fun kind of frustration to the viewing experience for the audience. The couple does have a hand-held camera that is used sparingly to fill in the blanks, but it is used only to give a few scenes a bit of action. It rarely gives more visual information to the audience than the overheads do, and it is often used to misdirect the attention of the viewers or to confuse them. This stirring, jarring bait-and-switch is sometimes irksome, but it adds a little chaos to the otherwise static-looking film.
The acting in the film is satisfactory but not especially stimulating. There are no exceptional performances, but neither were there any that made me contemplate homicide. The acting was wholly inoffensive. The actors were good enough to be unnoticeable, which was really all that was needed from them. The acting only bolstered the performance of the real horror: the unidentified.
Paranormal Activity 2 taps into two of the great human strengths that also can be weaknesses: our imagination and our intelligence. We know that sounds always have a cause, so when we hear a sound we feel compelled to figure out where it is coming from. If we can’t, it makes us anxious. The heightened awareness resulting from not knowing where a sound comes from—not knowing if we are prey—is one of the most primitive animal reactions. If it is impossible to figure out what caused the sound or why it is happening, our imagination begins to run through scenarios, usually starting with the most dangerous.
If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to invest in the characters and setting of a movie, a strong plot is not necessary to create fear when our evolutionary senses are being exploited. Where is that sound coming from? Why is the dog scratching at the door? And why is the baby crying? These are all questions the audience asks as it tries to figure out what is going on. Sure, Paranormal Activity 2 offers nothing more than roller-coaster thrills, but what’s not to love about roller coasters?
I was concerned that people who had not seen the first movie, Paranormal Activity, would be lost while viewing this sequel. By the end of Paranormal Activity 2, I thought my concerns were justified. I mentioned these concerns to the person who accompanied me, who had not seen Paranormal Activity, and he assured me that he didn’t feel lost. I explained to him what he missed in the first movie, but it didn’t seem to bother him. One will understand more of what’s going on if they have seen the first movie, but it is not essential to have seen it to enjoy the sequel.
If cinematic or intellectual depth is essential for your movie enjoyment, Paranormal Activity 2 is not a good choice for you. But if a jaunt through the sprinkler can elicit a giggle or two from you, it is worth your time.