Paranormal Activity 2

Form is content
★★★
☆
Released: 
2010
Director: 
Tod Williams
Starring: 
Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston
The Setup: 
Sister of woman from the first film gets a ghost story all her own.
Discussion: 

So I resisted seeing the first film in this series, having been burned so badly by Blair Witch Project, then having missed the midnight screenings, which sounded quite fun, and feeling like the sensation was probably over. Aside from the sneaking suspicion that there probably was a whole lot of nothing frothed up to fill out a movie, and one that would only make me angry. My friend Howard and I only went to this one because there was not one single other thing to see, so our expectations sub-basement. So imagine my shock to find myself sitting there with a smile on my face the whole time, admiring the film’s ingenious form and economy, and walking out completely happy!

We begin by meeting Dan and Kristi, who are just moving into a new house. They have a young son, Hunter, and Dan has a child from a previous marriage, Ali. Kristi is the sister of Katie from the first film. After an expositional tour of the house, they go on vacation and return to find the house trashed but nothing stolen. We are invited to believe that is when the demon or whatever moved in. From there it’s just slow build for the first 45 minutes [“I didn’t think it would be so boring,” my friend said] while nothing really happens but Kristi and Ali are getting freaked out, while Dan maintains that nothing is going on.

In here one has time to admire the ingenuity of these movies. For one, there is the sheen of realism that footage from a supposed security camera successfully imparts to the material. But what I really admired is the inherent suspense of the form, where you have a wide shot of a room, with the room behind it and the hallways all in focus, and the breathless interest as your eye keeps moving around the screen, searching for something that’s moving, waiting for something to happen. It’s ingenious! Then, because you’re there, staring, tense and waiting, when something DOES happen, you jump out of your skin! Darn clever, those kids.

I also kind of liked the formality—though it also does grow a tad wearisome—that we always see shots in the same order: the walk, the pool, the suitcase, the bedroom… This is a very structured, formal film. Anyway, things continue, we get the tiniest touch of exposition to explain what might be happening here, Dad refuses to watch the security footage until it’s too late… Mom is told that the more she talks about it the worse it gets… all these little things that help the filmmakers extend the movie and put off the moment when the family would obviously decide to pack up and get out.

Anyway, not much to talk about with the movie itself. It does what it has to do. Takes a long time to get going, then goes [and I understand much more happens in this one than the first]. I also sort of admire how you have screenwriters ["THREE screenwriters? For THAT?" Howard said], production designers, cinematographers and all, and their challenge is to make everything totally realistic, to just look like a house with junk thrown around like a regular family has junk thrown around, and write a screenplay that shapes a story while sounding just like regular daily chattering. I also admire how they thought of a story that effectively makes the two films into one big story, rather than just some unrelated rehash with another family or whatever.

So there ya go. I totally admired it and had a blast. I never want to see it again, and I don't want to see the first one now, but it did what it was meant to: suck money from me and give me 90 minutes of entertainment and a few thrills. That's a fair bargain these days.

Should you watch it: 

If you want! It is SO non-essential and if you've seen the first I don't see why you'd need to see this, but it's your time and money.