Shaune, a commenter on these threads, wrote about a year ago that he liked “Paranormal Activity,” but if they made a sequel he would hate it. Well, the sequel is here, but I think he and many other people will like it. I certainly think it’s a significant step up from the first movie, which had a great concept but was sometimes a bit boring.
“Paranormal Activity 2,” although it is meant to be watched after the first one, functions largely as a prequel, taking place a few months before the first movie. As such, the young married couple from that movie is in this one, too, although the main character is the sister of the woman from “PA1.”
Kristi is played by Sprague Grayden, who I recognized because she was the defendant on this week’s “Law & Order: Los Angeles”; she also played the president’s daughter in Season 7 of “24” and has appeared in many other TV series. Kristi is joined by her husband, her stepdaughter, her baby boy and her dog.
Working at newspapers, I’ve learned that kids and pets on the front page sell papers, and apparently they give movies a boost, too. Part of the problem with “PA1” was that I got tired of looking at just two characters. “PA2” is more well-rounded, more polished, more Hollywood — but not in a bad way. I enjoyed all those different points of view, and all the different suspects whenever a noise is heard in the house.
“PA2” uses the “faint sound of footsteps on stairs” cliché to good effect, but what’s really great is that it finds a creepier house than the first film. It’s not a rickety old haunted house, but rather a swank new Hollywood home. What makes it work is the sharp angles (Anyone could be around that corner!) and the mirrors (Was that movement? No, it was just a reflection. Whew.). It also makes nice use of silence; “PA2” may have spent more money than the first one, but it still didn’t have to pay a composer. During one stretch, I could clearly hear the movie playing in the theater next door.
And instead of one camera, “PA2” features seven — six security cameras, plus a hand-held. So every time something weird happens, it’s time to go to the tape. It’s an effective technique for doubling the suspense, because answers are indeed found on the tape, but what the family sees might creep them out even more.
The structure of showing security camera footage where nothing much happens was a little tedious at first, but the movie doesn’t stay in a rut. It picks up suspense as it goes along. I was getting close to thinking, “Come on, just have something happen already!” But then it does, and it’s all good stuff from then on.
Do you agree that “Paranormal Activity 2” is a notch better than the original? Or do you prefer the first one? Share your thoughts below.