Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #619
Number of Views: One
Release Date: October 22, 2010
Sub-Genre: Found Footage
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Tod Williams
Producers: Jason Blum, Akiva Goldsman, Oren Peli
Screenplay: Christopher B. Landon, Tom Pabst, Michael R. Perry
Special Effects: Erik Porn
Visual Effects: Mark A.Z. DippéMichael Kennedy
Cinematography: Michael Simmonds
Editing: Gregory Plotkin
Studio: Blumhouse Productions
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Stars: Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Seth Ginsberg, Vivis Cortez, Jackson Xenia Prieto, William Juan Prieto
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Japan “Ghosts”
 Björk “It’s Oh So Quiet”
There’s a good reason why they say that opinions are like assholes and, where the long-running and massively profitable Paranormal Activity franchise is concerned, folk seem only too happy to fart their thoughts. Seldom does a series polarize its audience so much; it’s either a work of unbridled genius or pretentious claptrap of the highest order depending on who you ask. Personally I sit on the fence with this one as, while I have my gripes, it cannot be accused of not doing what is stated on the tin. For those who willingly invest their free time in the likes of Ghost Adventures, pacing need never be an issue as it only takes that single bump in the night to make things worthwhile. However, for the more impatient among us, it’s a long old haul to that eventual pay-off. Say what you will, but Oren Peli’s unsettling original made an unprecedented $200 million at the box-office. Not bad for a movie that took around $15k to produce.
It’s the format I struggle with most and that’s just the nature of the beast I suppose. You see, it’s all just a question of endurance. How long the cursed family can bear living under the same roof as the supernatural entity in question and how long we can bear watching them flap like randy geese. Admittedly, there are moments throughout that will have us on tenterhooks, but they’re often spread way too thin to make for actual entertainment. To be fair, Paranormal Activity managed to strike a fairly decent balance, and made my flesh crawl on more than just an isolated occasion. Nevertheless, it has taken me six years to entertain any one of its numerous sequels and that speaks volumes for my indifference. One thing I pledged to do is give it a fair crack of the whip and now, my dear friends, I present you my tardy findings.
Tod Williams’ film is actually a prequel by all accounts and covers ground from two months prior to events of the first movie right up to its sucker punch conclusion. Indeed it even offers parallels as the family depicted are actually related to the ill-fated Katie and Micah and both actors show up for brief appearances. This time the focus is on Katie’s sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden), her highly strung husband Daniel (Brian Boland), his teenage daughter, Ali (Molly Ephraim), toddler son, Hunter, and faithful German shepherd, Abby, relocate to California only to have their new residence burgled before they can finish hanging the pots and pans. Although nothing of any great value appears to be missing, Dan swiftly installs a state-of-the-art surveillance system that will record any movements whatsoever to DVR as a precaution.
And so it begins. Naturally we’re not expecting miracles here and the first few nights pass with a bare minimum of incident as anticipated. However, it isn’t long before the Rey family’s Hispanic housekeeper Martine (Vivis Cortez), picks up on the negative energy and makes it her business to cleanse their domain of any “evil spirits” within. Needless to say, strict realist Daniel doesn’t take kindly to sage being burned on his arrival home from work and it’s adiós to Martine and hola to sandalwood incense. Dick move Dan, if there’s one thing you should never do then it’s ignoring a Hispanic housekeeper’s frantic cries when she tells you that your shit’s haunted. You just earned your loved ones a painfully slow-moving world of pain my friend.
Anyhoots, back to the cameras and, by around day five, I’d noticed that the automatic pool cleaner had moved a few inches in the outside piscina so things were evidently about to go live. I mean, what next? Could the laundry basket topple over unexpectedly, or worse still, the coffee pot begin percolating all by itself? I’m being dreadfully flippant, but the sentiment still stands as Paranormal Activity 2 is now running the risk of not doing precisely what is stated on the tin and I’m starting to consider activating the 2x speed function on my remote as it doesn’t feel like a tremendous risk to me at this point. 91 minutes may not be a long stretch, but the prospect of watching eighty of them pass while observing Dan refusing to accept his family’s plight is beginning to make it so.
He’s the only one in the house who doesn’t think something untoward is going on and finds a rational explanation for each of these minor occurrences. Meanwhile, Ali has taken to doing a little low-key investigating and discovered that humans can strike deals with demons by forfeiting the soul of their first-born which doesn’t bode well for poor little Hunter and things are about to get rather real for Kristi too as she is attacked by an unseen assailant while home alone and dragged down to the basement kicking and screaming. Once she emerges from her temporary shelter, complete with unexplained bite marks on her leg, she seems detached and the penny finally begins to drop for Daniel who decides it might be a good time to bring Martine back for a good old-fashioned exorcism. About bleeding time fella.
If it sounds like things are getting pretty white-knuckled in the Rey household then I regret to inform you that this is pretty much as good as it gets. If Tangina from Poltergeist had made the long trip to the Freeling household only to discover a rattling skillet and front door that slams shut all by itself, then my guess is that the old girl would have been mightily peeved. Regrettably that’s what Paranormal Activity 2 amounts to and even the conclusion, which ties the two films together rather tidily, is ultimately underwhelming and fritters any opportunity to truly leave its mark. Now I wish it to be known that I have no issue with movies that opt for a steady build-up as long as the pay-off makes up for any periods of inactivity that precede it but, by the time we eventually arrive at the grand finale here, I couldn’t help but feel a tad cheated.
It’s like waiting all year for Santa Claus to show up and, when he finally shuffles down the chimney stack late on Christmas Eve, it’s a 75 lb vagrant with sketchy chin growth that’s more alban than white. Is it any wonder that Michael Tiddes decided to cash in while the going was good and parody the living shit out of it? A Haunted House may have been inane at best and excruciating at worst, but at least we didn’t have to sit through endless reams of video surveillance to actually get to the hubbub. Let’s not torment the toddler here, Paranormal Activity 2 isn’t a bad film per se, just a dreadfully uninspiring one that reeks of opportunism and half-baked endeavor. With so many great independent horror movies vying for our attention and struggling to find their audience, middle-of-the-road dreck like this just incites my fury. It’s the spirits I feel sorry for as they deserve better than being upstaged by a bunch of possessed kitchenware. If we want to see that, then we’ll watch Fantasia. And when Mickey fucking Mouse can do a more effective job of erecting those neck hairs, you just know there’s a problem.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Dread Factor: 2/5
For the Dread-Heads: Much ado about nothing I’m afraid. Sure, Paranormal Activity 2 has its moments but they’re spread way too thin across the running time and not nearly disconcerting enough when they finally arrive. To be fair, any new parents may wish to keep close vigilance on the baby as they may well miss his first steps. However, aside from this and the instance when the two films eventually cross paths, it’s a barren old stretch to those bumps in the night and akin to watching paint dry.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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