Movie review: ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ is short on horror, full of nonsense

Ed Symkus

There are so many decisions to make before going to see “Paranormal Activity 2,” the follow-up to the insanely successful “Paranormal Activity” (made for about $11,000; grossed well over $100 million). Should you go to it right away, when there are big crowds, so you can get caught up in the electricity? Should you wait a bit, till there are less people screaming or shouting out “funny” one-liners? More important, if you do go, is it more important to pay close attention to all of the odd little occurrences and clues that point to possible horror? Or would it be more fun to see what other films “PA2” rips off, errr, I mean references?

My suggestions, if you must go: Crowded audience, look for references. I counted “The Blair Witch Project,” “Cloverfield,” “Diary of the Dead,” “Poltergeist,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and, oh, yeah, “Paranormal Activity.”

There are more people in this one – and a really cool dog – along with a much bigger budget (though it doesn’t really show). And it works relatively well as a prequel to “PA,” focusing on a different couple (though the character of Kristy is the sister of the first film’s Katie).

But it feels much more like a reworking of the first one, again using a single setting, again showing the whole thing through video cameras (oh, right, the extra money was spent on a high-quality video surveillance system that’s installed after a break-in ... but we know it wasn’t really a break-in), again featuring a far-too-generous supply of static shots of dark rooms.

There’s a cutesy beginning, with a bouncing baby boy (who later, in a funny/creepy scene, gets more than bounced), along with a few good laughs, and a chatty, improvisational approach to the performances that gives the characters a feeling of reality.

But just like its predecessor, which inexplicably got some great reviews from some knowledgeable critics, it’s a horror film that just isn’t very scary. There are plenty of jittery moments, but most of them come from cheap shots like slamming doors and big loud sounds that occur somewhere off-screen. To be fair, there are a couple of scenes that will freak out most viewers, but that’s because characters in them are affected physically, right out in the open (and, truth be told, behind one of those slammed doors).

The script attempts to get into the dissolution of a family due to demon infestation (or something like that), but not enough happens between them to garner much interest in their welfare. As far as looking at the film as a learning experience, we do at least get a basic understanding of the difference between ghosts and demons.

The ending, which roars in like a bolt of blue from out of nowhere, will come across as nonsense to anyone who didn’t see the first film. Oh, wait, even if you did see the first one, the ending here is nonsense ... and not scary!

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (Rated R for language and brief violent material.) Written by Michael R. Perry; directed by Tod Williams. 1 1/2 stars out of 4