'Paranormal Activity 2' more of the same
The first Paranormal Activity took me by surprise.
Not pleasantly, mind you, but more in the sense of, "Seriously?"
Sure, it's creepy, effectively playing up things that go bump in the night, but by no means is it a landmark horror movie. The scary part was the surrounding hype, so much so that producers green-lit a sequel while the original was still haunting the box office.
Three years later, and with a budget boost of about $3 million (the original cost an estimated $11,000), Paranormal Activity's back and bigger, but not much better.
Paranormal Activity 2 is basically the same movie, only this time there's a baby, a German shepherd and a comically menacing robotic pool cleaner.
Filmed in the same manner as the first, through "found footage" from handheld and security cameras, PA2 literally chronicles the comings and goings of a young family. Dan (Brian Boland, The Unborn) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden, TV's Sons of Anarchy) are living a happy life, having just brought home newborn son Hunter. Dan has a child from a previous marriage, teenager Ali (Molly Ephraim, College Road Trip), and all are startled by what appears to be a home intrusion.
Their house has been ransacked, but nothing stolen - except for one of Kristi's necklaces, a gift from her sister, Katie (Katie Featherston, Paranormal Activity), the protagonist of the first film.
In a knee-jerk reaction, Dan sets up security cameras throughout the house to catch any further intruders on film. But needless to say, it wasn't a burglar who invaded their home, but a malevolent spirit with an eye (or eyes, maybe even an optical proboscis?) on young Hunter.
Night after night, strange goings-on are captured on video - mysterious footsteps, doors closing, toys moving and pool cleaners crawling out of their aquatic habitat - and only Hunter and Abby the German shepherd seem to notice.
Rather than watch the hours of video that could shed light on the mystery, except on account of the pool cleaner incident, Dan dismisses the strange happenings, despite Kristi and Ali's obvious terror.
As nights pass, the incidents grow more violent in nature - kitchen cabinets bursting open, supernatural shoving and mysterious bite marks - all coming to an inevitable head that leaves the story ripe for another sequel.
But PA2 is more of a prequel than a sequel, leading up to the events of the original, and bringing Katie and insufferable boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat, Paranormal Activity) into the fray. There's enough narrative exposition to indicate the filmmakers are attempting to build a PA mythology of sorts, in order to milk the franchise's ghostly udders for all their ectoplasmic worth.
Unfortunately, they've been squeezed dry of scares, goosebumps and the oft-sought heebie-jeebies, set aside for elementary startle tactics.
Director Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor) seems content following the exact same formula as the first film, making this brand new movie feel tired from the get-go. It's a rerun of a story, expensively crafted to appear cheap - like a pair of distressed jeans (you know, the ones that come with the holes already in them).
And it's just as absurd.
Paranormal Activity 2, rated R for some language and brief violent material, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.