31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #19 – Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

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Director: Tod Williams

Writer(s): Christopher B. Landon, Tom Pabst & Michael R. Perry

Studio/Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Budget: $3m

Box Office: $177.5m

Release Date: 22 October, 2010

IMDb Rating: 5.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 58%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Brian Boland – Daniel Rey

Molly Ephraim – Ali Rey

Katie Featherston – Katie

Seth Ginsberg – Brad

Sprague Grayden – Kristi Rey

Micah Sloat – Micah

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

After experiencing what they think are a series of ‘break-ins’, a family sets up security cameras around their home, only to realise that the events unfolding before them are more sinister than they seem.

Inertia’s Insight

The prequel/sequel to 2007’s license to print money aka Paranormal Activity was greenlit almost instantly, the dollar signs rolling in the eyes of Paramount executives eager to cash in on the success of such a simple yet effective premise: the haunted house from the first-person perspective.

The end of Paranormal Activity (varying slightly depending on which version you saw) found Katie having finally succumbed to the demon’s advances. Micah’s fate is pretty much sealed, and Katie’s next moves unknown. So where do you take the story from here? Back in time of course.

The camera is switched on and the ‘reason for filming’, a necessity with found footage horror films, is quickly established. There’s a new baby in the house, so Dad attempts to document the child’s life. We’re introduced to the family and it’s a surprise to see Katie looking well and without the air of possession, the text quickly establishing that the events are taking place before the first film.

We recognise the signs of a haunting straight away, but it takes the family some time to come to terms with it. Thinking its a burglary, the Rey family install CCTV cameras in their house, gifting us several new angles to watch, more angles that get us questioning every movement in the frame, our eyes darting across the screen. It’s a clever move, keeping the perspective fresh whilst maintaining it as POV. It’s also quite voyeuristic, this intensive look into the family’s life. The burglary begins to hint at a more deeper meaning to their haunting, as only a possession belonging to Kristi and Katie’s grandmother has been stolen.

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The film then fast forwards a year or so, as baby Hunter is now mobile and life seems pretty normal for the Rey family. Enter stage left the demon to fuck things up. Paranormal Activity 2 gives us a bigger household and thus a broader perspective on the events in the house; the first film gave us Katie and Micah’s polarising views, but here we range from the skeptic to the firm believer, with Kristi sitting firmly on the fence. Despite the maid’s Spanish incantations and wafts of incense, Kristi fails to heed the signs until it’s too late.

The sensitivity of Hunter and the family dog open us up to more on-screen happenings. The camera in Hunter’s room is particularly well used, as we find ourselves scanning the frame for any mere hint of a shadow or some form.

There are also nice nods to the first film, such as the picture of Katie as a child appearing intact and not at all the charred picture it became when discovered in her loft. You never knew the potential for a sequel was there in Paranormal Activity, but there are moments here that seem to provide answers to questions we never knew we had.

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With a bigger budget and the very fact that a sequel must surpass its predecessor, there are more stand out moments in this film. The first person perspective in a horror film provides the best opportunity for scares – with no cuts, the camera becomes our eyes and we’re embedded in the scene, unable to look away. There’s also more of an emphasis on the shadow that the demon casts, and standout moments like Ali asleep on the sofa or Kristi being pulled from Hunters bedroom

Towards the end, the prequel brings itself closer to the start of the events in Paranormal Activity. Indeed, the opening scene from the first film is embedded into the final act to show how the two match up, explaining the burnt photo of Katie and the reason for her haunting. It’s a pretty messed up and desperate move by the Rey family, one that comes to bite them on the ass as the two films come full circle in a tense and genuinely creepy finale.

The financial success of both films, coupled with the filmmakers’ ability to turn an indie idea into a global franchise paved the way for a slew of other sequels that eventually ended six films later, doing the unthinkable: showing the demon. It’s where Ghost Dimension falls foul of its audience, but thankfully with Paranormal Activity 2, we’re gifted a film that, though it feels a bit the same, still provides scares through mere hint and suggestion.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★

Trivia

  • Upon release, the film broke the record for the biggest midnight gross of an R-rated movie with $6.3m, as well as the biggest opening for a horror movie of all time
  • The trailer for Paranormal Activity 2 featured a lot of footage that wasn’t in the final film, which the filmmakers stated was required in order to protect the storyline
  • The trailer for the film was banned in some cinemas as it was scaring people during PG-13 films

Quotes

ALI: I don’t know if the house is haunted, but I hope it is.


Tomorrow: Night #20 – The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

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