The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Paranormal Activity 2

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is a Math tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.  She is also a columnist for LasVegasRoundtheClock.com

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Paranormal Activity 2

Once again, home is the least safe place to be.  Whatever’s inside doesn’t want you there, anyway.  It wants the little boy.

The second installment of the hugely successful 2009 predecessor introduces us to a larger house and family consisting of Daniel (Brian Bolden), Kristi (Sprague Grayden), baby son Hunter (twins William and Jackson Prietro), and Ali (Molly Ephraim) Daniel’s daughter from a previous marriage.  Their superstitious housekeeper Martine (Vivis) is the first person to notice something sinister but unseen within the Carlsbad, California residence.

After an unexplained break-in, Daniel has six security cameras installed, and what these capture, supplemented by a handheld camcorder and night vision shots comprise the entire 91 minute film.

The innocuous interiors and exteriors of the house are cheery and bright by the light of day – until night falls bringing with it the thumps, slams, unexplained movements and escalating tension so familiar to us from the first film

This time around there’s a protective German shepherd named Abby to watch over baby Hunter.  Both witness unexplained manifestations, but since neither of them can speak, we get wails, growls, barks and yelps that are eerily effective. The fear factor rises as an unseen malevolent force makes itself known in increasingly aggressive ways.

With more color scenes and cast than its predecessor, this part-prequel, part- sequel explains more about the nature of the haunting.  (Katie) Katie Featherston and Micah (Micah Sloat) are back, because most of this film occurs before and during the events of the first film.  Since Katie seems to be the lightening rod for the dark force because of some vague curse following her since childhood, her presence makes the pieces fall into place.  Kristi is her younger sister.

Demons and legends of first born male children enter the equation via teen Ali’s research and subsequent videotaping of the house for evidence.  Daniel doesn’t believe her or Kristi (yeah, he’s that character that no scary film can exist without:  the skeptic).  Night vision makes a disconcerting appearance especially effective in chaotic scenes, when the viewer is just as confused and terrified as the victims.

Time stamps give the production a documentary feel. There are repeated shots of the front walkways and the pool with its motorized Roomba-like cleaner that almost becomes a star in its own right.  You can imagines these scenes figuring in a drinking game once the DVD becomes available.

Then there are large doses of people doing foolish things, another requirement for this genre.  They leave the lights off when they investigate noise; they answer a door in the middle of the night.  They consult a Ouija Board for assistance; they don’t leave.

“We don’t talk about it,” declares Kristi to a videotaping Ali, as if that’s a viable solution to the alarming events.  

Because it seems as if you’re watching someone’s home movie, performances blend into the scenery, but that’s a good thing, giving the viewer a sense of ordinary existences disrupted by extraordinary circumstances.  Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat represent a sinister foreshadowing.  Sprague Grayden and Brian Bolden are convincing as well-meaning parents.  Molly Ephraim and Vivis fight an uphill battle in sounding unheeded warnings.  And we believe all of it.

Director Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor) takes over from Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), who co-wrote “2” with Emmy award winning television writer Michael R. Perry (NYPD Blue, House).  Dialogue seems natural, almost as-libbed.  The inclusion of night vision footage is a satisfyingly creepy touch, giving everyone, even baby Hunter, that unnerving glow-eyed glare when full frontal face shots fill the screen.  

The film successfully grips audience attention like the unseen force that pulls some of the victims up and out of their previous locations.  There are no dull spots, only quiet ones – and that’s where the terror is likely to start, invading the still and the dark, disturbing the deceptively peaceful.

The ending is left wide open for a sequel as nothing is resolved – and only some things are final.  Paranormal Activity 3?  The Ouija Board slides silently to YES.