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‘Paranormal Activity 2’ Brilliantly Turned a Simple Story into a Compelling Franchise

‘Paranormal Activity 2’ Brilliantly Turned a Simple Story into a Compelling Franchise

It’s often not the first film that launches a franchise, but rather its sequel.

Director Oren Peli will be the first one to tell you that he never planned on Paranormal Activity being anything more than a one-shot film. His low-budget debut feature, filmed in his own home, told a contained story with a definite beginning, middle and end. In short, a young man and woman, Micah and Katie, realize that something strange is going on inside their home while they sleep, so they decide to start filming their bedroom after they turn the lights out each night. A demonic entity eventually presents itself, possessing Katie.

A possessed Katie kills Micah. A police officer arrives, shooting and killing Katie. At least, this was the ending to the film when it initially premiered back in 2007.

As is now common knowledge, Paramount eventually acquired Peli’s little movie, releasing it into theaters across the country in 2009. Much to Peli’s initial chagrin, Paramount shot an entirely new ending for the film, designed to allow room for sequels. In the theatrical ending, Katie doesn’t get shot by the cops after killing Micah.

Instead, she vanishes.

After the smash hit success of Paranormal Activity, Paramount’s desired sequel wasn’t far behind. Peli remained on board as producer of Paranormal Activity 2, released in 2010. This time, the script was penned by Christopher Landon, Michael Perry and Tom Pabst, and Tod Williams took over as director of the found footage franchise’s second outing.

Initially unbeknownst to the audience, the multi-camera Paranormal Activity 2 centers on the family of Kristi, briefly referenced in the first film as being Katie’s sister. Surprisingly, Katie pops up at a certain point, cluing us into the fact that this sequel is actually (for the most part) a prequel to Paranormal Activity. Katie isn’t yet possessed and Micah is still alive, but Kristi and her family are experiencing the sort of strange, terrifying activity that Katie and Micah soon will.

If the first sequel makes or breaks a franchise, Paranormal Activity 2 most definitely accomplished the goal of “making” this one. The first film established no real mythology for a potential franchise beyond Katie and her sister having experienced *something* as children, and the sequel uses that limited backstory from Peli’s film as the jumping off point to expand upon the story and deepen the mythology in some very interesting ways.

Why was Katie being targeted in the first film? And what was with that burnt childhood photo in her attic? Paranormal Activity 2 provides compelling answers to these questions.

We learn in Paranormal Activity 2 that a distant relative of Katie and Kristi’s family made some kind of deal with a demon decades prior to 2006, under the clause that the demon would eventually collect the firstborn male in the family tree. As it turns out, Kristi’s young son Hunter is that firstborn male, making her and her family the initial target of the demon. And here’s where things get really crazy, and wonderfully mean-spirited.

In a shocking twist that manages to make the original Paranormal Activity an even better, creepier and more interesting film upon a revisit, we learn in the sequel that it was actually Kristi’s lovable husband Daniel who was responsible for Katie being tormented in Peli’s movie! Desperate and fearing for the life of his wife, young son and teenage daughter, Daniel resorts to extreme measures, transferring the demon from his wife’s body into her sister’s home! It’s the family’s housekeeper who tells him how to do this, and the process involves burning a photo of the new host (which must be a blood relative) and placing it inside that person’s home.

Does that mean the noises Katie and Micah heard on the first of their nightmare nights were actually Daniel breaking in and spreading the curse? Chilling to think about.

Paranormal Activity 2 is also loaded with other fun little treats for fans of the first film, cluing us into why Micah wanted to buy a camera in the first place – he was impressed with Daniel’s, remarking that he needed to get one – and even showing us the likely origins of the Ouija Board Micah uses in the first film. He tells Katie in Paranormal Activity that he had borrowed it, and that same board’s appearance in the sequel suggests that it was Daniel who lent it to him. Of course, that only helped Daniel’s insidious cause.

Ultimately, Paranormal Activity 2 catches up to the events of the first film, picking up precisely where it left off in the final act. Katie kills Micah, snaps Daniel’s neck and then steals baby Hunter, once again disappearing into the night. The demon has finally collected on the deal it made decades prior, and new questions are left for future sequels. For starters, what the hell is a demonically possessed Katie now going to do with the baby?!

The ’80s-set Paranormal Activity 3 may be the fan favorite sequel, but it was Paranormal Activity 2 that took an incredibly simple story, cracked it wide open, and made a franchise out of the whole thing. Revisiting the 2010 film this week, I was reminded that it’s in many ways the perfect sequel, both building and improving upon its predecessor.

Most franchises only wish they had a Paranormal Activity 2 to really get things going.



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COMMENTS

79 Comments
  • I saw Paranormal Activity 2 when I was a teenager in the theater, I liked and I’ll never forget how I jumped from the chair during the scary kitchen scene. However I hated Paranormal Activity 3 because the ending is horrible and almost anything what we have seen on the trailer isn’t included in the movie.

    • John Squires

      That kitchen scare, where all the cabinet doors fly open, is one of the best jump scares of the past 10 years. So effective, even on a revisit!

      • Daniel Anderson

        +1

      • Tan Shearer

        Nah the scary maze game is the best jump scare of the past 10 years.

    • Saturn

      The stuff in the trailer is in the director’s cut of PA3 (well, mostly, iirc).

  • Daniel Anderson

    LOVED the idea behind paranormal activity. Beyond the haunted house story it was the tale of a low budget flick that turned national hit. I had a lot of fun following that and did enjoy the movie even though it had slow build up. I actually really enjoyed paranormal activity 2 with the effects of its increased budget.

    • Tan Shearer

      Then became a franchise that really overstayed its welcome. 7 films? Seriously? This concept does not need 7 films.

      • Daniel Anderson

        I enjoyed them all for their own merits.

      • Saturn

        Glad to see someone is still counting Tokyo Night in with the franchise.

        • Tan Shearer

          Well spin-offs are still part of the franchise. For example Freddy’s Nightmares: The Series is not part of the main film series but it’s still part of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

  • Tan Shearer

    Watched it with my Aunt and her husband around 6 years ago. We all thought it was super boring. I remember the first one was okay and had a few jump scares that worked but definitely didn’t need a sequel let alone a franchise. I mean how much can you really do with this concept? I mean could you imagine how terrible 7 Blair Witch movies would have been?

    • John Squires

      See but that’s what makes Paranormal Activity 2 so good. It made an interesting franchise out of a film that on paper really didn’t warrant much of a sequel.

      • Tan Shearer

        But it wasn’t interesting at all. It was the most boring movie I ever saw, it’s not very often where I think I could literally make a more interesting film than this.

        • Khy

          PA2 was a waste. Not intriguing in the least. I also didn’t like PA3 that much either even though I know that gets a lot of praise.
          Only ones I enjoyed was the original and Marked Ones.

          • Saturn

            I wasn’t a fan of 2 to be honest.
            Of the franchise I enjoy (in no order) 1,3,Marked Ones,Ghost Dimension (which of course I’ll have to dig out for December, as it’s an Xmas movie).

  • J Jett

    i’ve never been a fan of this franchise but the main problem i had with part 2 is that the ONLY likable characters in it were Hunter (the baby) and the dog. EVERY other character was mind-numbingly awful/unlikable.

    • Rocky

      fuck up asshole, no one cares what you think

      • Mike tantatelli

        Hahaha

        • Rocky

          yawn

      • Saturn

        You did enough to respond.

        • Rocky

          eat my hole fucker

          • Saturn

            As long as it’s served with a sauce made out of your tears.

    • Jay Bennett

      the dog is always the most likable character

      • Saturn

        Even in Cujo?

        • Jay Bennett

          I retract my statement

          • Saturn

            You’ll make a fine politician!

    • Saturn

      I dunno, I kinda like Toby.

  • Will Coors

    I honestly really enjoyed part 2. I totally agree that it took the mythology in the right way and built a super deep story for a simple concept which is exactly what you need for a franchise. I really enjoyed the third as well, it wasn’t until part 4 and the god awful part 5 that really ruined the story. I was so excited for part 4 to finally give us the aftermath of part 2 and it ended up being such a let down. 5 was just terrible. I did enjoy the marked ones though. Such a shame, I think the original 3 are fun films and I wish it had a better ending.

    • Micah Unice

      I second every word of this.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    iuck

  • James Allard

    I kept hoping the series was not only going farther and farther backwards but that eventually we’d have found footage on 8mm.

  • Tyler McPherson

    And Paranormal Activity 4 turned it all into shit.

  • BIG BEAR

    I honestly only liked the first one.

  • Travis_Bickle

    I worked with Orel before he was a filmmaker. When he first showed us the trailer for the movie we all thought it looked stupid….he had the last laugh I suppose…

    I still think these movies are garbage…imo.

    • Mike tantatelli

      I agree. They didn’t do anything for me except boredom.

  • WOLF

    This site way over exaggerates. There’s nothing “brilliant” about this movie.

    • Tan Shearer

      LOL you should have read their Saw editorial by a cancer patient. Sounded like Jigsaw himself wrote it. xD

      • WOLF

        I saw the article but didn’t read it lol.

        • Tan Shearer

          Basically it was some guy who’s had cancer who said he relates to the Saw films on a personal level. He was comparing the Saw traps to his own personal struggle and giving pieces of himself in order to survive just how Jigsaw’s victims give pieces of themselves in order to survive.

      • Brandon

        Damn that’s cold.

  • sliceanddice

    i think 3 is the best but then again i eat my own earwax

    • Saturn

      Yes you do, and you’re so greedy that you still haven’t posted me a sample yet.

      • sliceanddice

        It’s on it way, friend.

        • Saturn

          It better be – how am I supposed to make that delicious ear wax hummus recipe you sent me without it!

          • sliceanddice

            Ha!

  • Right Is Right

    The same might be said about “Saw 2” opening up that world to the potential for an ongoing story, which remained pretty impressive for a couple more sequels.

  • Necro

    In my opinion this franchise reminds me of ‘Saw’ in a sense. The first 3 films are the best and could’ve ended there and it would’ve made a really good trilogy. After that the sequels are ok at best and the timeline becomes increasingly muddy. In a lot of ways the second film is better than the first, and finally the second film took a simple story and blew the doors wide open story wise and the possibilities became interesting. Also the way both franchises ended had me scratching my head as to how it ended up there, only in this case I think ‘Saw’ did a better job as far as explaining things.

    On another note that scene with ‘Kristi’ sitting in the kitchen and all of a sudden every cupboard and cabinet fly wide open all at the same time is freaky as shit!

  • BreeBennett

    I like 2 and 3, but I always say Paranormal Activity is better being a stand alone movie.

    • Saturn

      Much like Saw I agree – but I do enjoy both franchises (mostly).

  • baronterror

    I absolutely loved Paranormal Activity 2. It refined and made better Paranormal Activity. Together they are a great little duo of the best of “found footage” with 2 being the superior film to me. having all teh security footage so that we can have different angles and rooms and not needing someone to carry the camera all the time was ingenious and has not been surpassed.

    The rest of the films? Meh. 3 was…ok? fun? I dont know. it was an interesting side note, with 4 not even being worth mentioning. Paranormal Activity 2 is where it is at.

  • In an ideal world it should’ve never had big studio intervention and ended with the original ending and that’s that. There was some mystery around the movie and it was unique and interesting, it all went down hill with the shitty second ending

  • Chance LeBoeuf

    Eh, Paranormal Activity was always something I still think was best fit as a short film. Not a full length feature because the simplicity was the strongest attribute. The expanded mythology to me isn’t a point in its favor because not only are you defeating the perk of the original, but this mythology was at the end of the day very contrived and generic.

    It only existed as flimsy reasoning to keep pumping out movies that were incredibly cheap to make and preyed upon what I like to refer to as the “PG-13 Shovelware Horror Crowd”. (not saying the rating is a problem I assure you) It’s the creatively less risky, cheap horror film that will draw a lot of young teens and people that decided their Friday night needs to be spooked up on a whim.

    I mean, honestly, if you wanted a franchise still, it doesn’t HAVE to even have a mythology. It can be an anthology of just individual ghost stories shot in a connective style. But Hollywood also thinks this is an element all moviegoers need and want. Sure it feels cool to be a part of the ever expanding Marvel Movies and whatnot, but it’s this mentality that has some out-of- touch suit in Hollywood saying this is why we need to have a shared cinematic universe featuring G.I. Joe, Scooby Doo, and the fucking Microbots or some shit.

    • Collin

      Ive seen quite a bit of pg 13 horror in my time and the only one i remember at all is krampus, which was awesome. So basically unless you’re michael Dougherty a pg 13 rating on a horror movie is a big red flag for me.

      Sorry I know your post wasn’t about that (although you’re spot on with it) but I felt the need to contribute

      • Saturn

        There have been a few decent PG13 (or equivalent) horror movies – Poltergeist, Gremlins (I think they are around that certificate in the US – can’t say for certain as I’m in the UK), Drag Me To Hell, Happy Death Day, The Ring, Insidious, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism.
        Correct me if I’m wrong about those ratings, but I’m just going by memory from what I’ve read on these – and other – boards over the years.

        Goes to prove that you don’t need over the top blood and guts to make a good horror movie. Some of the greatest have none (The Haunting, original of course, as a prime example) at all.

  • Alanmac

    Loved 1 and 3 but didnt care for part 2.

    • sliceanddice

      Same here. 1 and 3 are excellent. otherwise, meh.

      • Saturn

        Seems the PA movies follow the odd number good, even number not so good rule.
        1,3,Marked Ones : pretty good, 2,4 (shite) and Ghost Dimension? Well, i liked that one, so…..

        • What’d you like about Ghost Dimension? I couldn’t make it past 5 minutes.

          • Saturn

            To be honest I have to revisit it (I’m planning on doing so in December, as it being set around Xmas time) as I’ve only watched it the once, at the cinema at time of release and remember enjoying it (mostly). Although I really don’t like to fully make up my mind about a movie until I’ve seen it at least a couple of times, as certain films (Suspiria as the main case in point) I didn’t enjoy first time around, but have grown to love – and of course the opposite can happen in that I may enjoy a movie first time round but on repeat viewings? Meh.
            It really depends on the mood I’m in at the time.

          • gabriel

            Ghost Dimension made me through up that nasty strawberry Fanta.

  • Collin

    When I was younger I thought the first was a really effective scary movie but after having grown up a bit and exposing myself to horror of all kinds, its so thoroughly meh that I wind what I ever saw in it. I legit fell asleep dur ing the second movie it was so boring. Three was an okay found footage due to the ending sequence, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to vhs 2’s safe haven, which is one of the only found footage movies I’d defend as a genuinely great movie.

    • Evan3

      Check out Blair Witch Project! And Rec (legitimately scary as shit).

  • Munchie Strikes Back

    Hey, Bloody Disgusting editors! Why don’t you read your own “Comment Policy” and at least delete comments by this Rocky person in this thread and others, if not outright block him? Everything this person writes is 100% against your guidelines and the comments stay, whilst comments by myself and others that are very tame in comparison get deleted. Follow your own rules!

    • Saturn

      I second that motion.

  • Tetra-Gramaton-Cleric

    Actually, the sequel ruined the mystery of the first film by over-explaining things that were best left unknown.

    For example, in the first, when they find the picture of Katie and her sister up in the ceiling of the house, it’s undeniably creepy because it is entirely unexplained and essentially impossible. To find out later that it was Kristie’s husband takes away that dread and fear of the unknown with a feeble explanation.

    Also, they missed out on a golden opportunity by not having the older daughter come home and discover her family murdered on camera, which would have been incredibly disturbing.

  • Tobe

    I kept hoping the series was not only going farther and farther backwards but that eventually we’d have found footage on 8mm.

    • Saturn

      The rumour is that once the series is rebooted, we’ll eventually get to PA13, which will be set around the 1700’s, and the story will be shown in drawings.

  • American Atheist

    I just saw PA2 on tv and man was it boring. I remember the ending but everything else wasn’t memorable at all. I enjoy PA1 and PA3.

    • My friends dubbed it “Poolcleaner Activity” since pretty much all that happened through most of the movie was the pool cleaner moving around

      • gabriel

        That’s the only thing i remember from Ghost Dimension too

        • American Atheist

          I don’t even remember Ghost Dimension. Lol

          I know I saw it. I just don’t remember anything about it.

      • American Atheist

        LOL. It was so stupid. The father tried to play it off when they viewed it magically float out of the pool on their surveillance video. I would’ve moved the fuck out of the house as soon as I saw that shit.

        • That whole series is full of “oh it’s just an entire kitchen full of pans flying on the floor by accident it’s nothing”, so annoying

      • Evan3

        I remember the reviews making A BIG DEAL about that damned pool cleaner. It’s been years, but I don’t remember anything coming of that.

        • I was really looking forward to the pool cleaner spin off series as well…

  • This one used to be my favorite, but it doesn’t hold up well at all. It’s funny I hated 3 when it was released but I actually find it to be the most entertaining one. They got it right with 3 and the marked ones

    • gabriel

      Alright, another fan of the Marked Ones, I love that one too

  • When does it explain that Daniel was responsible for it? I don’t remember that at all. ….and how does that make sense for the 3rd one when they’re kids and it was happening?

  • Evan3

    i HATED this movie so much. And I hold it directly responsible for the nonsense that followed.

    This movie established a pattern of giving almost no more info on Toby, having Katie become some weird ass neck snapping ninja, and adopting endings with more questions than answers Ugh. I admit things got worse after this, but this set the precedent for these things.

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