since The Blair Witch Project, ‘found footage’ of supernatural events
have been on the rise in cinemas and it’s easy to see why – amateurish,
realistic recordings are cheap to make and the ‘based on true events’ premise makes for enticing entertainment.
The reason these documentary-style horrors really have an impact,
however, is the idea that the film itself is the only thing to have
survived the events.
Of course, dedication to realism is what made the first Paranormal
Activity such a huge success. The convincing home video footage of a young couple plagued by bumps in the night
was truly terrifying because it depicted an unnatural threat in a
natural environment. But with the film being so insular and culminating
in a terrible fate for its two main characters, how can a sequel
The answer lies in telling a story that predates the events of its
predecessor, providing background information that not only enriches the
original premise, but it changes how the first film is viewed. Set 60
days before Micah’s death at the end of Paranormal Activity, this
sequel/prequel focuses on the soon-to-be-possessed Kate’s sister, Kristi
Rey and her family – husband Dan, teenage daughter Ali and toddler
Hunter – who set up security cameras in their house following a break-in.
Told through these cameras and the hand-held one used by the family, a series of spooky noises and movements start to occur in and around the house, which all indicate that they are under attack from a malevolent spirit who seems particularly focused on youngster Hunter.
In order for the film to scare and shock, a lot of time is
understandably spent building tension by showing mundane footage of the
family just going about their usual business. Unfortunately this makes
for incredibly dull viewing for the entire first half of the movie, with little or no action happening onscreen and minimum progress made in telling the story.
Thankfully, the second half of the film just about makes up for this
paranormal inactivity because, once the ghostly goings on hit their
stride, there are plenty of spectacular scares and jumps to be had.
With each security camera shot showing a wide view of the rooms, every
tense moment makes the audience search of the screen for some kind of
sign of supernatural movement, and yet the surprises are still
unexpected enough to have the audience leaping out of their seats.
Unfortunately, in slowly ramping the eerie events throughout the film, a
few unintentionally laughable moments slip in, such as footage of Dan’s
pool cleaning machine moving independently like R2D2 and one scene in
which Hunter floats above his cot, which just seems too ridiculously over the top where everything else merely unsettles.
Where the film really shines, however, is the way in which it weaves
itself neatly into the events of the first film, providing to some
extent an explanation for the haunting and setting up the original’s plot with Micah showing great interest and enthusiasm in Dan’s own camcorder.
Overall, it is somewhat uneven. The utterly boring first half is offset
by a brilliantly chilling second half, but this will divide most
viewers. The only guarantee this film offers though is that it provides
more of the same as its predecessor, so fans of the first film will no doubt enjoy this sequel just as much.