Paranormal Activity 2: Film Review

It’s deja vu all over again with this rehashing sequel to the surprise horror smash.

Less a sequel than a superfluous remake, “Paranormal Activity 2” takes everything that was unique about the original and simply tries to do it again.

Technically accomplished in its fake video-verite style but artistically bankrupt, the film — judging by the derisive jeers that erupted during the end credits at an opening-day screening — is not likely to incite the passionate fervor generated by its predecessor.

Being billed as a prequel, Paranormal Activity 2 reprises one of the characters and the exact formula of the original. Again, the point of view is strictly through home video and surveillance-camera footage that eventually reveals the bumps in the night threatening the hapless characters.

The action takes place in the sprawling, well-appointed suburban California home of Daniel (Brian Boland); wife Kristi (Sprague Grayden), who is the sister of the original’s Katie (Katie Featherston); teen daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim); and toddler son Hunter.

After a seemingly random break-in, a series of surveillance cameras is installed at various locations in and outside the house. For a long stretch, we’re treated to banal footage of the family going about its day-to-day existence, until, you guessed it, mysterious things start happening.

They are at first seemingly minor: A frying pan falls off of a pot rack; the automatic pool cleaner seems to have a mind of its own; and the family’s German shepherd starts barking for no apparent reason.

Director Tod Williams manages to effectively ratchet up the tension as the horrific events escalate, with long, static takes that keep the audience on edge until the inevitable loud noises and sudden shocks induce the predictable responses.

But anyone who has seen the original knows exactly where things are heading, with the result that the proceedings seem far more manipulative than unnerving.

Although the original characters were appealing and sympathetic in their mounting terror, the banal figures here fail to hold our interest, though the tyke and the canine have their moments.

Like the original — or at least the version that was theatrically released — the story reaches a jarring conclusion involving demonic possession that’s more designed for shock value than in keeping with the relatively subtle menace preceding it. 

Opened: Friday, Oct. 22 (Paramount)
Production: Blumhouse, Solana Films, Room 101
Cast: Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston
Director: Tod Williams
Screenwriters: Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, Tom Pabst
Story by: Michael R. Perry
Producers: Jason Blum, Oren Peli
Executive producer: Steven Schneider, Akiva Goldsman
Director of photography: Michael Simmonds
Production designer: Jennifer Spence
Editor: Gregory Plotkin
Costume designer: Kristin M. Burke
Casting: Michael Hothorn
Rated R, 91 minutes