The Surprise Hits Gets a Franchise
Main Cast: Sprague Grayden, Molly Ephraim
Director: Tod Williams
Here’s a math problem for you. Paranormal Activity 2 is, chronologically, the second film in the series. But it takes place BEFORE Paranormal Activity. I’ll leave you to ponder that one.
In this sequel, made three years after the first movie, we’re focusing on Daniel and Kristi Rey, Daniel’s daughter Ali, and their new baby, Hunter. The couple come home one day to find their place has been ransacked. Nothing is stolen, but the house is a mess. So Daniel sets up a bunch of security cameras, and voila, we’ve got our found footage movie.
Things around the house get more and more unsettling. The pool cleaner keeps taking itself out of the pool. Strange footsteps are heard in the middle of the night. The pots keep falling off the hooks in the kitchen. And then comes the day Kristi is sitting alone, reading a magazine and waiting for the water to boil for her tea when every cabinet and drawer in the kitchen flies open with a crash, scaring the bejeezus out of her and sending her running from the room.
Ali is starting to believe the house is haunted. Kristi, too, had been heading down this path, until a conversation with her sister Katie (Katie from the first Paranormal Activity) reminds her of their childhood and insists if they talk about “these things”, they only get stronger and the best course of action is to ignore it.
So ignore it Kristi does. Or tries to. Until the night the entity hurts the family dog and Daniel and Ali take it to the vet, leaving Kristi defenseless when the ghost, demon, whatever it is, drags her into the basement, marking her.
Daniel finally relents after seeing the security footage, admits there’s something in the house, and calls their old housekeeper whom he had recently fired when he came home one night to find her burning sage and trying to cleanse the house. It felt like overkill to me at the time, but Daniel is a man who doesn’t want any nonsense in his house, unless it’s him pulling the pranks. He’s sort of a jackass.
Anyway, the ex-housekeeper gives them a spell to rid them of their trouble, but this spell also requires the entity be transferred to someone else. Who else could they transfer it to … let’s see, who else do they know? Ali’s horny teenage boyfriend? No, he won’t do. One of the neighbors? No, that’s no good either. Oh, hey, why not transfer it to Kristi’s sister Katie (and this, at the 88-minute mark, is where the first PA movie slips in, chronologically). Sure, give it to Katie. She won’t mind, right? After all, she’s Kristi’s sister. If you asked her, I’m sure she’d be HAPPY to take the entity off your hands.
Well, that doesn’t work out so well, either. Remember that scene at the end of the first PA where Katie kills Micah? Yeah, turns out she wasn’t done murdering people yet. And the ghost DID say earlier that it wants Hunter, so what are the only things standing in its way of getting what it wants? Yep, Daniel and Kristi. What ever is a demon to do with a possessed body in its … possession?
Paranormal Activity 2 is not a great movie, but I still like it a lot. I love the jigsaw puzzle formation of the timeline and having to piece it all together in my mind as I watch. I love that the only jump scare in the entire movie is pretty damn scary. I think the plot unfolds at a nice pace, even if a lot of the movie drags with unending shots of the pool in the middle of the night and the empty rooms of the Rey house. I mean, this movie is a SLOG at times, but, for me, when it’s good it’s really good. It doesn’t feel the need to ram the activity down your throat, relying instead on subtlety, shadows, placement of the cameras and how best to take advantage of those angles.
I also like that this is where the mythology of the series begins, with Ali doing her due diligence and trying to understand what’s going on. In doing so, she comes to the conclusion that what they’re dealing with is very likely a demon, not a ghost, and that this particular demon very possibly could have made a deal with Kristi and Katie’s grandmother wherein it would claim the soul of the first-born male child in their family. And guess who just happens to be the first male born into the family since the 1930s. If you said Kristi’s son Hunter, you’re right!
The cast this time is made up of faces you may recognize, at least if you watched “24” or “Last Man Standing”, in which case you’ll know Sprague Grayden (Kristi) and Molly Ephraim (Ali). They’re neither of them household names, but I think they both bring a level of experience to their roles that Micah and Katie from the first movie just didn’t have, and when these two are supposed to be terrified, it comes across.
A lot of people give these movies a hard time–my daughter being one of them–but for all the wonky timelines and long periods of not a whole lot happening, this movie draws me in and mesmerizes me, making me only too happy to be taken along on this ride with these characters who I know are only actors, but it’s all done in such a natural way I feel like I’m there with them. And isn’t that what a movie is meant to do anyway? This one gets a solid recommend from me.