Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Paranormal Activity 2" delivers spooky chills

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
91 min., rated R.

Repeating the same “Demand it!” campaign as its predecessor and favoring silence and waiting and suggestion over an annoyingly loud soundtrack, obvious effects, and gore, "Paranormal Activity 2" will still leave you with a jittery feeling. Set in 2006, two months prior to the San Diego hauntings with Katie and Micah in Paranormal Activity, this one also delivers the jumpy spooks with restraint (and the bickering couple appears every now and then). The concept is the same, but centers on Katie's sister, Kristi (Sprague Grayden), who has a homecoming with her husband, Daniel (Brian Boland), and their newborn baby Hunter. There's also a Mexican maid (Vivis), a dog, and teen daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) from the dad's previous marriage. After what looks like a break-in (with nothing stolen besides Kristi's necklace that her sister gave her), the family install security cameras in six spots around their Carlsbad, California house. No, it's not just the house settling. All together now: they're back! 

Director Tod Williams expands on the scope and budget of Oren Peli's first movie (he's just producer), and what starts out as family home videos transforms into some pin-droppingly creepy imagery. Pots fall from their hooks, kitchen cabinets and drawers suddenly fly open, doors open and shut, a bottom-feeding pool cleaner always moves itself out of the pool every morning, the dog barks at unseen forces, and the baby's blanky gets dragged off of him in his crib. Sure, the obvious logical question still stands: Why doesn't the family just resurrect Father Merrin to do an exorcism, get the hell out of the house, and drive far, far away in their mini-van? 

But try not covering your eyes during the nightly surveillance tapes and skipping-ahead time code (your eyes will be stuck on all four corners of the frame), or try watching this in the cold. "Paranormal Activity 2" is an effectively shivery companion piece, a prequel of sorts, even if the ending is abrupt (as most of these faux-documentaries are), that cleverly ties itself together with the original. It's a scary trick.

Grade: B +

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