Friday, October 21, 2011

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010): or, Wake Me When It's Haunting

October Horror Movie Challenge, Day 20!

In the months before the events of the first movie, new mother Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and husband Daniel (Brian Boland) bring their infant son Hunter home from the hospital to their palatial mini-mansion in the suburbs. All is happy days and lollipops for a while, until one day the couple finds their house completely trashed, apparently by vandals who had the courtesy to lock the doors behind them and not steal anything of value. Being the wealthy, proactive father he is, Daniel has surveillance cameras installed so that they can monitor all nocturnal goings on in the house. But the footage thus captured doesn't reveal bored teenagers emulating their favorite MTV shows--rather, it's g-g-g-ghosts!

The strange happenings escalate--pots fall from kitchen racks, mobiles spin by themselves over Hunter's crib, the automatic pool cleaner inexplicably removes itself from the pool, and strange knockings are heard. As the frightened young parents try to make sense of things, they discover a dark secret in their family history that will threaten not only their own safety, but spill over into the lives of Kristi's sister Katie (Katie Featherston) and her boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat)--the protagonists of the first film, whose own subsequent travails are a direct result of what happens here.

I was a bit lukewarm about Paranormal Activity (2007)--I thought it had some unsettling imagery and well-executed, totally legit scares, but found the main characters annoying and their actions more than a little contrived. I also felt it was a bit too light on explanation for the haunting, and the pacing much too slow. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) does a bit better on the first count, proposing a Faustian bargain in the sisters' family history in which a first-born son was promised and must now be delivered, since Hunter is the first male in the line for a few generations. However, it does even worse on the second count. There are a few scare scenes in the flick, but you have to sit through more than an hour of fairly boring "found footage" before you get to them--by which point, if you're still awake, you might well wonder if the payoff is worth the wait.

The acting is okay, and the "reality" filming is done pretty well, but in the end there are few things more boring than watching someone else's home movies, particularly when you don't know or care about the people involved. While a little restraint and deliberate, slow-boil reveals are usually a good thing in a haunted house flick, I felt director Tod Williams went a little overboard here--when you're more than an hour in and the scariest thing that's happened has been a CG shadow disturbing someone's nap, you run the risk of trying your audience's patience.

Once we actually reach the climax, it's pretty good stuff--nothing we haven't seen before at this point, but well executed nonetheless--and I appreciated the creepy little tie-in to the ending of the last film. But after enduring an hour and fifteen minutes of only occasionally-broken boredom, I felt it was too little, too late. 1 thumb.

"Screw this, I'm outta here."

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