Paranormal Activity 2: based on the film Paranormal Activity by Oren Peli, written by Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, and Tom Pabst; directed by Tod Williams; starring Brian Boland (Daniel), Molly Ephraim (Ali), Katie Featherston (Katie), Sprague Grayden (Kristi), and Micah Sloat (Micah) (2010): Watching the first three Paranormal Activity movies out of sequence over a 4-year period really made things extra exciting.
While watching this second installment, it took me about half the movie to figure out when the third movie occurred (18 years before the other two) and who it involved (the sister-protagonists Katie and Kristi as children and their family). Much of the second movie takes place before the first movie and focuses for the most part on Kristi, the demon-plagued sister of the demon-plagued woman in part one, Katie. I’ll give the (now) tetralogy bonus points for wild and wooly non-linear narrative order, especially as four different directors and about eight different writers worked on the first three installments.
While this movie begins to offer some explanations for the occasionally self-destructive behaviour of the sisters-as-adults, it isn’t until the third film that one finds out why two characters plagued by verifiable, hostile supernatural activity are so goddamned awful at finding ways to combat it.
As a crucifix proves pretty useful towards the end of this film, I’d expect the rational Dad and the most reasonable person in the film given the circumstances, Kristi’s step-daughter Ali, to be wearing clothes made entirely of crosses, rosaries, and handguns when we catch up with them at the end of the movie. Seriously, folks. Paint giant crosses on your doors and windows. And stop going to that one occult site on the Internet that didn’t really help Micah in the first movie. There are five million websites devoted to ghost- and demon-busting on the Internet. Jesus, these people are terrible at using search engines!
Thematically, these omissions of reason make a fair amount of occasionally frustrating sense. The adults in the three movies aren’t very bright (the teenagers and the older nanny are much smarter), have absolutely no religious beliefs, and are apparently incapable of expanding their demon-busting beyond the Exorcism for Dummies level.
This is a portrait of a terminally stupid and ignorant segment of the American population pretty much doing everything either wrong or in half-measures when confronted by real evil and exposed to real fear. You can apply that to the real-world political situation as you see fit, but while it may be accidental, it’s also quite telling — and makes some of the characterization absurdities seem much less absurd. These people don’t know where or when to shoot and can’t shoot straight when they do open fire.
Nothing in this second movie approaches the great oscillating-fan shots of the third movie, or the ‘standing around’ sequences in the first one. The scariest things in this movie are actually an automated pool vacuum and a hot tub. Make of that what you will. Lightly recommended.