When the Reys move into their new Southern California home, little do they realize that the house is already occupied. After coming home one day to find the house in disarray — but with no signs of forced entry or robbery — they install a video surveillance system to catch the perpetrators. But nothing prepares them for what happens next.
If you missed my review of Paranormal Activity that went live yesterday, I mentioned how the film has garnered a massive following ever since its release and has gone down as one of the most influential horror movies in recent memory. The film sort of rekindled the spark of the found-footage horror genre, but up until yesterday I hadn’t seen it. When I did see it, I was left massively disappointed. Not only was it completely unscary and tragically boring, but it just wasn’t a good film in the long run.
So you can probably imagine why I wasn’t too excited to jump into its 2010 prequel Paranormal Activity 2. It looked like it was going to be more of the same. The first film was made for an amazingly low budget of just fifteen-thousand dollars and, although I didn’t like the film overall, I have to admit that director Oren Peli was able to do quite a bit with not a lot of money.
That initial entry managed to rake in one-hundred-and-ninety million dollars at the box office, and so, as a result, a sequel (or in this case, prequel) was inevitable. Movies that make money will almost get follow-ups, and thus, the Paranormal Activity franchise was born. But, much to my surprise, not only is Paranormal Activity 2 a far superior film to the original, but it is legitimately good.
Let’s just get this right out of the gate, though – this is still not a scary movie. There was no scene anywhere throughout this ninety-minute movie that even remotely creeped me out. It plays out like any traditional found footage horror and has jumpscares that feel weak and tacked on. But the reason why I ended up enjoying this prequel overall is because of how it depicts a family falling apart in the face of fear.
It certainly doesn’t do as good a job at this as Hereditary, but it still manages to showcase a family that feels one-hundred percent real and broken. In that first movie, I genuinely didn’t care at all about Micah and Katie. If they had both died in the first ten minutes of the movie, I wouldn’t have been upset. Mainly because their characters felt so flat and so underdeveloped that it was incredibly hard to root or care for them. With the Rey family though, they feel much more fleshed out and likable as a whole.
Throughout the film, they experience a plethora of strange occurrences throughout their house, usually at night. Certain objects come flying off shelves, they hear unexplained thumping noises, doors close behind people with no wind gusts, and more. Their teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) is convinced that there are spirits in the house causing these events to happen, but her father Daniel (Brian Boland) is convinced otherwise. While this feels familiar and to be expected, the film features the family clashing almost constantly, making them always on edge.
Plus, Paranormal Activity 2 does have some moments of true tension and suspense that felt strong and believable, particularly towards the last twenty minutes or so. The ending is intentionally bleak and open-ended and left me a little bit surprised in a good way. It’s one of those endings that should have been left open-ended, but of course, they made four more movies, with another one on the way next year. Why? Money.
Paranormal Activity 2 is a massive improvement upon the original that greatly depicts the breaking down of a family, even if the film as a whole isn’t scary.
Overall Grade: B-
MPAA Rating: R for some language and brief violent material
Directed by: Tod Williams
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: October 22, 2010
Running Time: 91 minutes