I liked the original Paranormal Activity, but wanted to like it more. See, I was one of those early fanatical fans of The Blair Witch Project, and I had been looking forward to Paranormal Activity since they began their whole “Demand It” campaign to get the movie into theaters.
But seeing it in the theater, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have liked it more had I seen it at home at night in my bedroom with the lights out, just like where the scariest parts of that movie take place. Now I know because that’s exactly how I watched Paranormal Activity 2, and I really enjoyed it.
It’s rare when a sequel can surpass the original, and I expected Paranormal Activity 2 to feel a bit stale, and it very well could have because it follows the exact same structure as the first. But that’s also why it kind of makes sense that it’s better than the first. The Paranormal Activity franchise is a procedural (like Law & Order, for example) with a set format: People set up cameras in their homes to try to understand how and why something is happening, shit gradually gets weirder, and things finally climax in spooky violence. It makes total sense that the filmmakers would get better at executing this format from the first movie to the second.
If you don’t want to risk spoilers, stop reading now. Otherwise…
This time instead of just a man and a woman, the couple have two children (a teenage girl and a baby boy) and a dog, all of which adds lots of interesting relationship dynamics to play out as they all react to the weirdness. And the tie in with the first movie is pretty clever in that it extends the underlying “mythology” for the haunting that was hinted at in the original.
It was a nice surprise to discover I was actually watching a prequel when Katie Featherston shows up. And I loved how the actions of the characters in this movie result directly in the events of the first one. This was some skillful storytelling, in my opinion.
My one criticism is that the middle of the movie drags out the tension too much. This is a sequel. We know where it’s going, so move us along a little faster, please. I read that the theatrical version was missing some of the scenes I saw watching it on Netflix, so maybe pacing was why they took those scenes out.
I’m eager to see if they can continue to keep this structure exciting and fresh in the third movie. Hopefully so because I just read this morning that they’re planning a fourth for next year…