Horror movies rarely get better as a series goes on. ¬†In fact most series that start incredibe only get worse and eventually fall to ruin...I'm looking at you Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. ¬†Even if a sequel to a horror film is just as scary, it's very rare that the sequel is a perfect companion to the first one and makes it even better. ¬†When I saw that Paranormal Activity was going to have a sequel come out EXACTLY one year after the first one, my thoughts went exactly to the disaster that was The Blair Witch Project 2. ¬†That was a perfect example of how Hollywood can take one of the all-time movie success stories that created legit terror on a shoestring budget and then raped the soul out of it. ¬†I'm absolutely thrilled to report that Paranormal Activity 2 avoided the awful conclusion that The Blair Witch Project suffered. ¬†This movie worked with what made the original a success and pumped it full of steroids. ¬†Sure, it's a little more spruced up and has some special effects but it still retains those key ingredients - surveillance cameras, unknown actors, limited cast, one location and heavy reliance on sound effects. ¬†Although the reason for the "I shot this myself" product feels less organic and believable than it did in the first one, I'm thrilled that they made that choice. ¬†What was refreshing to see was that the original director, Oren Peli, handed over the reigns to new director Tod Williams, who comes from directing documentaries. ¬†The other was hiring a perfect team of writers that made the film an amazing prequel AND sequel at the same time.¬† But (and this really impressed me) you don't need to see the first one to fully enjoy the second one.¬† In fact, you could then watch the first one and THAT would turn into a sequel.¬† It introduced a whole new cast of characters to care about AND found a great way to bring back Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloan from the first one. ¬†Now, when it came to the first one it was amazingly creepy but somewhat light on the scares. ¬†The sequel skimps on the creepy and trades it for terror and monumental scares! ¬†If you're a fan of the original then you're prepared for a first act that burns slow and steady. ¬†However, the last twenty minutes of the sequel goes to places of horror that are beautiful when done right. ¬†For one, they added a dog and a baby and that preys on the two areas that most people consider pure innocence. ¬†Sure there were teenagers in the theater that were laughing as a nervous response but most of the parents were silent with anxious fright and I even heard some cry. ¬†The thought of helplessness in defending your baby is a primal fear that I can only imagine can paralyze even the strongest of audience members. ¬†The¬†Paranormal Activity series reminds of a type of horror film that's rare and so wonderful to see. ¬†The kind that never relies on gore or monsters to create terror but instead invites you into a haunted house. ¬†You basically will spend 90 minutes watching a magic trick as the house becomes alive with sounds and tricks that scare you as much as they scare the actors. ¬†Yeah, this time around some of those tricks are CGI or other visual effects, but it still has the same feel of low budget, bare knuckled, drag out, goosebump-inducing, fun house horror. ¬†Don't bother getting popcorn for this one because it's just gonna end up on your lap and the lap of your neighbor.
Paranormal Activity 2 (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A