Second Time Scary: Andy Burns On Paranormal Activity 2

For a guy that likes horror films, I surely am a wussy fraidy cat. I admit it. I keep my hands over my eyes when I’m watching certain films, even if I’ve voluntarily sat down to experience them. That’s just the way I roll, I suppose.

And that’s just the way I saw while I was watching Paranormal Activity 2 the other night with my pal, Denny B. You may recall last year’s interesting experience with the first film; the short version – I walked out of the film slamming the performances and the repetition, but was then unable to sleep that night when I got home. With those memories still vivid, I didn’t think I would be so keen on seeing the sequel leading up to opening night, but timing is everything and it turned out I was able to get away for a night at the movies with a buddy. I’m glad I did.

Paranormal Activity 2 is not only one of the best horror films I’ve seen in some time, it’s the rarest of all sequels – one that actually improves upon the first. In this particularly case, I don’t think there’s any question that PA2 is the vastly superior film. Without giving you too many spoilers, I’ll say that we’re in very familiar territory with this entry into what appears to be an ongoing franchise. A house, a demon, and various cameras capturing intimate moments in a haunted house. This time out it’s a family that’s being terrorized – widowed Dad, new Mom Krisi, newborn son and Dad’s daughter from his previous marriage (along with a dog for good measure and the required growling). While the character count is higher, there are significant connections to the first film, with Krisi actually the sister of Katie, who we last saw all demon face after killing her boyfriend Micah. Both of those characters return in PA2 but I’m not going to be the one to tell you how. Just know that you’ll be satisfied with the explanation.

Paranormal Activity 2 follows many of the same stylistic tropes of the first film, almost to the letter – the bumps in the night and the obvious found footage technique. But with stronger performances from every cast member (including those returning) and a story that actually builds a mythos and offers up plausible reasons for the hauntings, PA2 managed to engage me in ways that the first never even came close to.

Oh, and it’s pretty darn scary too. I had a few eyes virtually closed moments, especially in the penultimate scenes. Wussy fraidy cat, right over here. And keep in mind, all the terror came without mass amounts of bloodletting or decapitations. One’s imagination can be pretty scary when given free reign.

One final observation. If you’re like me, the notion of talking during a film apart from an occasional whisper is throughly ridiculous and rude. However, during the screening of PA2 that I attended, there was an abundance of chatter occurring. This didn’t bother me, though. I think it’s because most of seemed to be a direct result of the general unease and fear that Paranormal Activity 2 was able to generate amongst everybody watching. The nervous laughter, the shrieks, screams and “whoahs” that popped up every few minutes – in my mind it was the sign of an audience that needed to constantly remind themselves that it’s only a movie.

It is only a movie, isn’t it?

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