The bitch is back.
Anyone who read my review for the original 'Paranormal Activity' knows that I got tired of saying "the demon" this, "the demon" that, blah blah blah "the demon." Since the film didn't name the unseen creature, I did, and while it may be odd to think of as a female, anyone big into the Bible can more than likely open the book to any random page in the Old Testament and find some kind of "evil" woman in some fashion, so that's my fallback if anyone complains. While this film doesn't 100% percent say for sure we're dealing with the same unseen supernatural force, it's fairly obvious, since 'Paranormal Activity' mentioned both girls being terrorized when they were younger.
So, welcome back, Sarah. Only, you're not quite welcome back. Really, was a sequel, prequel, Nyquil, or any other kind of quil/el necessary? In the horror genre, obviously not, as any film that made more than thirty bucks is ripe for adapting, remaking, or returning to the well for. If it hasn't already been run into the ground, you can bet your ass the studio will make sure it is by the time they're done with it. See: 'Saw,' and I'm not talking about the children's ride. 'Paranormal Activity' was a fun one shot, a film where we got all the answers we needed, where "closure" wasn't all that necessary. If there were to be another film, it would have been neater to make a retro possession flick, concerning the two children, and their house that apparently was burnt to the ground.
So, 'Paranormal Activity 2' comes along, and naturally, it doesn't listen to my advice. Instead, it gives Katie a sister, Kristi (Sprague Grayden), and a whole extended family, including a brother-in-law (Brian Boland as Daniel Rey), a step-niece (Molly Ephraim), and Hunter, Kristi's newest tyke, who's still in diapers. The clock is wound back over two months, before the events of the first film. Ruh-roh...prequel...
It seems Sarah is a rambling woman, and she's back to give Kristi and her family a good scaring. Some random webpage says that if someone made a pact with the Devil, that their dues may be paid with the soul of the firstborn male child in the family, and...hey!...Hunter, that's a boy's name! Apparently there weren't any boys born in the family in almost 80 years (the film makes it a point to say as much. Eerie.). So strange things start happening, and after the family comes home to find their house completely trashed, yet there's nothing missing, they decide to install a bunch of surveillance cameras. What you're seeing here is the last days of the family, tightly edited together in a manner that makes it impossible to believe it were real.
Whoops, sorry about that, that was awfully cynical of me to say. I'm not sorry for saying "last days of the family," because the first thing shown once the film plays is a note from Paramount saying they'd like to thank the families of the deceased and the Carlsbad police department. See, they let you know upfront people are going to die, and if you saw the last film, you know exactly how it's going to happen. This isn't so much a prequel or a sequel as it is a crappy remake. A crappy remake that does the same shit, now with more people in the house (a teenager, a dog, and a toddler). And a bigger budget. And less creepy scares.
And, apparently, no point to exist. 'Paranormal Activity 2' feels like a crummy add-on to the series, capitalizing on the success of the original. Yes, I realize I just described almost every horror sequel ever made, but there isn't any story to tell here. It's the same old tale, with raised stakes. This time, the family fight each other and play the blame game, constantly bickering. Gee, that's interesting. Wow, they bust out a ouija board, that didn't happen in the original, either. Hey, a demon is going to grab people, slam doors, turn things on, make big thumping sounds, and be a prick. Yeah, Sarah does that. She will not go away. So what's the point? Are we supposed to feel suspense because there's a baby involved, invoking fears of someone trying to hurt your child?
I'll admit, the one kind of horror movie that can get to me is the one where creatures appear out of nowhere, because it's pure shock scares, and eventually one will work. There will always be one thrown in at the one time you don't expect it, only there to try to get you. Because of this, 'Paranormal Activity 2' should have been slightly scary. Nope. I mean, the original had a few good scares, the screams, a good thump, and the whole attic sequence were good chills. This time, wow the power goes out in the entire house, and the camera, that has shown off night vision earlier in the film, goes into '[rec]' territory. Gee. Lame. Rip off. Bullshit.
I also have problems with the way the film progresses. If we're to believe that Sarah is the world's worst interior decorator when she trashed their home, and stole nothing but a necklace, then the entire film doesn't make sense. See, Sarah always moves in little steps, going deeper and deeper as the weeks go on. Yet, that would be her going for a 90 percent full on scare in her first try, which should have been, I dunno, something small, like something barely moving. That would make sense.
Katie and Micah are written into the story in a way that nudges you in the gut and says, "see? See? We're tying in to the original! Isn't that cool? It's going to make so much more sense now!" Only, it doesn't. Why would Sarah go from zero to one hundred on Kristi and her family, then start back at zero with Katie? That makes no sense. Sarah, you make no sense!
So, yeah, Paramount wants to thank some fictional characters and a police department we never see. I'd like to thank Nicolas Cage and that red car from 'Cars' (yes I know its name, but I refuse to say it). That makes as much sense. One of the people I'm thanking is fictional...the other is a cartoon car. If I were Oren Peli, I'd be one pissed off guy right now. Hollywood just took your film, and ruined it. 'Paranormal Activity 2' actually hurts the original due to all its glaring flaws. Now the series is a load of shit because of the way they're tied together. You can't appreciate the original by its lonesome and ignore the new film, like you could if this were an actual sequel. The only way this series could get worse would be if 'Paranormal Activity 3' (yup, it's happening) turns out to be a prequel to a prequel. A preprequel. That or if it actually showed Sarah, instead of just alluding to her. Sarah's just an attention whore. Ignore her, and she'll go away. Due to the efforts in this film, I'd advise everyone to do that to part three so we don't have another seven to ten part horror anthology. One was enough. Two is overkill.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Paramount brings 'Paranormal Activity 2' to Blu-ray on a BD50 Dual Layer Disc. They did one thing right: no pre-menu trailers. Nothin'. Just a static, no audio menu. Hells to the yeah.
The 1.78:1, 1080p transfer, using the AVC MPEG-4 encode, has severe limitations, much like the original film. This time, we have about six distinct cameras, with a number of static "hidden" cameras, as well as the handheld camcorder. Much like '28 Days Later,' the score for this release keeps in mind that while this particular disc doesn't have too much "wrong" with it, the large amount of subpar footage, intentional or not, does not bode well for a viewing experience for anyone seeking for a superb looking picture.
The only "real" way to judge this film is off the only camera that is allowed to move, as it captures the best footage possible. It still has its problems, though, so it's hard to discount every second of the film coming from the other cams. The camcorder creates some uneven skin tones, which range from perfection to very ashen and sometimes even hot. Basically, whatever the lighting dictates. Hairs leap, off arms, lips, heads, you name it, it's mighty fine. Exterior day shots are very stunning, and they mostly take place around the pool, so be on the lookout for them for more reasons than to see Katie Featherston in a swimsuit. Makes me wish I had the keys to the motorboat...
The good camera has enough flaws to justify the score I'm giving this disc, not even considering the other footage. Blacks crush, movement creates some serious jaggedness, there are noise problems, numerous fuzzy sequences, and motion blur. Additionally, there are a few sequences where whites are heavily tinted and a bit distracting. Throw in the fixed cameras, and you get heavy grain that impedes detail, and lots of very low quality footage, frequently hit by the non-motion errors found in the other camera, on top of constant stairstepping and some pretty awful chroma fringes.
Yes, this film looks miles ahead of the original. No, that still isn't enough to give it a higher score. I'm calling it like I see it, and on this one, even three stars is more than generous.
There's no trashing the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for 'Paranormal Activity 2,' especially if you expect realism. This is a film based off a camcorder and some static cams. As such, realistically, audio recorded would not be surround sound, where creaks could be heard from a corner or items move through the room. Dialogue never has any problems, and any weird noises you hear are intentional, part of the whole "mystique" of the film. The volume levels are appropriate, as noises from another room sound a bit more hollow, and lighter. Bass levels, well, anyone who saw the first film knows that Sarah only comes out to play when there's some thump in the room. At first, the rumble in this film is very soft, and subtle, and it increases along the way. Some of the scares have such small bass presences they can come out of nowhere, instead of making you expect them.
This is a passable track, for a film not intended to sound like a million bucks. If it did, it wouldn't be a 'Paranormal Activity' flick.
The score here has little to do with the extras on the Blu-ray, as they're possessed by a succubus (or just suck, pick one). Rather, the bonus DVD is why this section gets anything more than half a star.
The 'Paranormal Activity' series is definitely a love it or hate it affair. All films in this particular genre are, to be honest. That said, I don't see many "love it!" reactions happening here. 'Paranormal Activity 2' is pointless, plain and simple, a quick money grab. This Blu-ray release looks and sounds as good as one can expect from a film like this, and, much like the original, extras are limited, so as to keep the air of mystery. If you liked the original, check it out. If you didn't, there's no way in hell I'd recommend a viewing.