Billed as “the most anticipated horror event of the year” by Dread Central, the follow up to 2007’s bare-bones horror hit comes to theaters...

Paranormal Activity 2

Billed as “the most anticipated horror event of the year” by Dread Central, the follow up to 2007’s bare-bones horror hit comes to theaters packing the same punch as the original.

Paranormal Activity 2 is a slow burn and, like the original, much time is spent getting to know the family at the center of the paranormal events. These include teenage daughter Ali, parents Daniel and Kristi with toddler Hunter and the family dog. Kristi is the sister of Paranormal Activity’s Katie and the events in Paranormal Activity 2 run parallel to those in the first film. Before we get to any actual paranormal-ness there are several red herrings, a potty freak out involving the daughter and a pool cleaner that rises from the depths, that lull us into safety before the real scares begin.

After a series of break-ins, patriarch Daniel beefs up his home security, installing security cameras all over the house equipped with motion sensors. These cameras provide the lens through which we will see most of the film, with brief asides provided from handheld home video shot by Kristi and Ali. This panoptic perspective gives us, the audience, a front row seat as events unfold.

The initial break-ins are only shown in aftermath. I hate to put my 9/11 hat on again, but a homeland invasion by a threatening Other resonates with the family’s reaction to the trashed house. The unseen assailants make off with nothing except a necklace given to Kristi by her sister, but the teen daughter Ali feels violated at the very idea that a “person was in here going through my stuff” Later when Daniel tries to convince the stressed Kristi to go on a date night, he tells her that if she lets the paranormal goings-on affect their lives, “the terrorists win”

But far from providing comfort or answers for the family, the video only documents the horror. Moving objects, freaky shadows and raspy whispers are just some of the not-so-normal things that take place in this house.

We get some much needed back story on these events from the research of daughter Ali and Kristi’s interaction with her sister, returning actress Katie Featherstone. According to Ali’s research, demonic hauntings can be the result of bargains with the Devil gone bad. The way she reads it, Kristi and Katie’s great-great-grandmother brokered a deal with the devil for wealth and power. The price: a first born son. Hunter turns out to be the first male born to Kristi and Katie’s family since the 1920s.

Katie and Kristi also chat about a traumatic childhood filled with fear and strange people visiting their house. Katie’s advice to Kristi is simple, “Don’t’ talk about it. It’ll only make things worse” It turns out ignoring the problem isn’t the answer and it leads to a major case of return of the repressed when paranormal activity literally explodes in the kitchen.

Paranormal Activity 2 once again locates the source of the supernatural in the feminine. New mommy Christie is chosen as the target for the demon’s shenanigans. In a scene that echoes Katie’s bedside abduction, Kristi is dragged down the stairs of her two-story home and into the basement. The tension is palpable as we wait for her to emerge, the sped up camera footage indicating she was down there for 45 minutes to an hour. When she does come back, she’s a changed woman. Daughter Ali notices and documents the change with her handheld camera. We get glimpses of the teeth marks on Christi’s left thigh and later are witness to an exorcism conducted under the guidance of the superstitious female housekeeper Martin. It is only with her help and knowledge of the “spirits” that husband Daniel is able to subdue his demon-wife with a cross covered in oil, the symbol of Christ’s anointing.

To compare price tags, the original Paranormal Activity was made for around $11,000 while the sequel was budgeted at $2,750,000. I’m willing to believe that some of that went to hiring better actors and it definitely shows in places, but what about the rest? Special effects probably ate up much of this bill, but it’s hard to notice which may be a nod to the film’s practical effects.

Despite all these successes, the ending of Paranormal Activity 2 does seem a bit tacked on, meant more to capitalize on the past story of its predecessor and end the movie than to go for something more innovative. In the end, Paranormal Activity 2 works because it sticks closely to what made the original work. Long periods of unnerving silence are broken by gotcha moments of paranormal spookiness. Overall, it’s a good film for jump out scares, but I dread what may be the set-up for a sequel at the film’s end. It seems a demanding horror market will not allow sleeping demons to lie.


  1. You were very kind to this film - I saw it and with the exception of the day time scare in the kitchen (which made me jump out of my skin) and the floating baby scene, I was pretty much unimpressed. That is, we've seen this all before - and it was great. This time it just felt like a retelling.

  2. Yeah the kitchen scene freaked me out too. What did you think about the ending? I felt like the entire film was trying to capitalize on the original's success.

  3. I thought the idea of the ending was very clever, as well as the story about a family curse.

    The way they executed the ending just sort of fell flat for me.