In an age where the common train of thought for sequels is bigger equals better, it’s surprising that Paranormal Activity 2‘s problems don’t stem from inflated egos and bloated budgets. It’s not that I expected Robot Heaven or a flood of new villains in Tod Williams’ follow-up to Oren Peli’s minimalist blockbuster, but I’m shocked that Tinseltown’s proclivity towards it’s tried-and-true methods are almost completely absent. Looking at it from a strictly genre standpoint, it does indeed match or double the body count of the original (depending on which version you saw), and the scares are a bit more elaborate, but in the end, its rules and confines aren’t changed much, save for one notable (and spoilerific) exception. Like REC 2, it furthers the mythology of the franchise with a few surprises, and will possibly change your perception of previously seen events, putting it on the same level as its predecessor; nothing more, nothing less.
Using a book-end framing device, Paranormal Activity 2 acts as both an extremely long prologue and quick epilogue to the original, giving a little more insight into how and why the devious and mysterious entity began pestering Katie and Micah (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloan), and how the theatrical ending of Part 1 fits into the grand scheme of things (aside from creating a possibility for a sequel). The entity antagonizes Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and her family this time around, with Aunt Katie making appearances every twenty minutes or so. The newest addition to the family, Hunter, seems to be the beacon for the spirit, though the family secrets touched upon in the original rear their head again and are explored a little more thoroughly.
A mix of handheld and security camera footage are used to great effect, making way for quicker coverage as the action switches from room to room. While there is enough variation to say that it isn’t an exact carbon copy of the original, even though the approach is quite similar, Williams and screenwriters Michael Perry, Christopher Landon and Tom Pabst seem to have run into the same problems as Peli’s film did. Slow-burn pacing and increasing amounts of tension are still the name of the game this time around, but it’s opening act crawls along at an ungodly rate and while it presents a fairly realistic representation of the mundane day-to-day antics of an average family, there is still a tad too much padding in between scares. It’s not that the humdrum nature of their lives is unwarranted, it’s just that there should be more action and dialogue driving the plot forward rather than leaving it at a standstill.
Paramount’s Blu-Ray is hard to criticize, as the film is made to look and sound like it’s been recorded on consumer grade electronics. The MPEG-4 AVE 1080p encode is harsh looking, with poor lighting, plenty of digital noise, and a lot of soft looking shots. And yet, that’s how it is supposed to look. It isn’t the transfer that’s bad in cases like these, it’s the intention of the filmmaker and source material that provide for a subdued presentation. Same goes for the DTS-HD 5.1 track, which is just as low-grade. Dialogue is muffled and droning noises carry on in the background, but it adds to the experience. Aside from a DVD/digital copy disc, the only extras are the teaser trailer and Found Footage (3:49), which consists of the viral footage of Hunter wandering around in the street. Although I normally slam releases for a lack of supplementary features, it’s seems warranted to keep up the “true life” mystique of the film this time around.
Paranormal Activity 2 is a worthy sequel, furthering the mythos of the spirit and while not answering everything one hundred percent, will still leave viewers more than satisfied. Paramount is currently mounting up for another entry, though it’s hard to say whether the balanced mix of in-camera trickery and minimal CGI will be as awe-inspiring a third time around, or if the fly-on-the-wall approach can provide anything new for fans. The Blu-Ray release, while not jam-packed or even remotely close to being reference material, is a good representation of the film all things considered, and will certainly hold you over until October.