by Dan Fields
First published October 23, 2010 by the California Literary Review
Demons: “They’re just, like… evil.”
If you are investigating Paranormal Activity 2, either as an audience member or simply a reader of reviews, you probably exposed yourself to the original Paranormal Activity, a monumental disappointment made in 2007 and unleashed on most of America during the summer and fall of 2009. There are two ways to look at a franchise like this. The first is to wonder why audiences keep falling for the “scariest movie ever made” marketing campaign. The less cynical (and probably more correct) attitude is to consider the appeal of getting a bunch of friends together to act rowdy and ridicule a film like this. The audience seems to be in on the joke, but I don’t think the makers of the movie are. I think they sincerely intended this film to be taut, edgy, and full of terror.
The director establishes the familiar false documentary format with home videos of a family moving into their new home. Meet Kristi, the sister of poor Katie from the first Paranormal Activity. She has a lovely house, a clean-cut teenage stepdaughter, a generally inoffensive dork of a husband, a faithful German Shepherd, and a sweet new baby boy named Hunter. It’s the modern, upper middle class ideal family, perhaps like the ones in your own neighborhood. We know these are real, ordinary people because they talk and act just like real, ordinary people, not like carefully written movie characters. Because that’s interesting, right? Wrong. People trying hard to act like regular people is boring and stupid. There, I’ve said it. It was the biggest failing of the first Paranormal Activity, and it doesn’t help here.