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Paranormal Activity 2 - Blu-ray Review

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Paranormal Activity 2 Movie Review

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4 stars

After the breakthrough success of last year’s indie Paranormal Activity, it was a no-brainer that Paramount Pictures would see fit to develop a quick sequel.  The question on everyone’s mind was “how exactly does that work?”  Do we follow the possessed Katie as she ravishes through the suburban sprawl that is Carlsbad, California?  Or do we get to see a new family being terrorized by a similar spirit that possessed her and killed Mikah?  Some of us decided it couldn’t and shouldn’t be done.  Look what happened to the sequel to The Blair Witch Project.  It was devastatingly horrible; an obvious rush job that had audiences fleeing from the theatre because it was so damn awful.  A dumb sequel is the last thing we wanted for this gem of a horror flick.

Thankfully, the answer - with a little input from writer/director (of the original film) Oren Peli – has much, much better results; it both expands and elevates the mythos created in the original.  In fact, Paranormal Activity 2 is the odd sequel that rescues the original with a smarter, a funnier and a scarier story that connects the two movies into one seamless narrative with room for a third.  Your eyes will strain looking at some of this night vision footage because you know something will happen.  Chances are, it is happening.  You just don’t know where. And when it does happen…well…DON’T LOOK AWAY...it’s your reward.

Besides, you want to be scared.  You won’t leave disappointed.

Connecting the audience to Katie’s sister, Christie, writer Michael Perry weaves a narrative that gives us the 3-month prelude to the events of the first film.  This time, though, the fear is heightened because of the inclusion of a family dog and a baby.  It’s a risky thing showing harm to a child, but – my god – does it ever work with this movie.  Sure, we have the familiar situation developing between Christie and her husband (one is a believer and the other is not), but – with the inclusion of teenager Allie (a child from another marriage) and a superstitious nanny – Paranormal Activity 2 quickly becomes a hell of a lot more interesting than the original, even if some of the scares are somewhat familiar.

Doors slam shut.  Things rattle.  Pans clang together.  And the house goes BOOM.  Yeah, it’s pretty frightening.  Yes, the audience will get it and laugh at themselves as they scream and gasp in terror – especially when the child is threatened by the spirit.  Yet, this time instead of capturing all of it on a handheld camera, Paranormal Activity 2 tells its story to the audience using security cameras installed after a sudden break-in.  Unfortunately, Christie’s family doesn’t quite get it; their house wasn’t broken into.  It simply imploded; a supernatural preview of things to come.  Things quickly become more intense and only Allie, after being locked out of the house while babysitting her step-brother, seems willing to explore what is happening.  What she discovers is that something in the house – in Christie’s family – wants her baby brother dead.

Interestingly enough, it is suggested that both Katie and Christie have dealt with this demon before.  It is something they don’t talk about.  But it is something – a haunting of sorts – that left Christie speechless for several months when they were younger.  The events of Paranormal Activity 2 even explain some of the questions raised by the original, suggesting that a third film – concluding the events surrounding the family – is already plotted out.

Directed by Tod Williams, Paranormal Activity 2 benefits from the success of the original and adds on to the general creepiness of the film by documenting its events with a mixing of media – visually shaking up the static predictability of the original.   Of course, some night scenes are “gimmies” and we want to be scared and we are certainly rewarded for it by the reactions of the dog, the baby, and a chaotic scene with sees Christie being forced out of her baby’s nursery and shoved into a basement.

A basement?  In California?  Wait a second…

Yeah, I balked at the idea, too.  Apparently, writer Perry has never heard of earthquakes, clay soil, and high water tables before because, ehem, THERE ARE NO BASEMENTS IN CALIFORNIA.  None.  Are the scenes in the basement scary?  Yes, but as I said before THERE ARE NO BASEMENTS IN CALIFORNIA.  It’s a huge error in common sense for a picture that was shot IN SAN DIEGO.  Yes, it’s an obvious homage to The Blair Witch Project, but it is such a lapse in judgment that it almost ruins the picture…if you’ve ever lived in San Diego.

Oh well.  It couldn't be perfect.

Paranormal Activity 2 won’t win over any new fans.  If you didn’t buy it the first time, you won’t buy it with Round Two.  Yet, its story is surprisingly interesting and gives a better purpose to the original – making it more than just “found” footage.  For some, giving specific purpose to the original might ruin its impact, but – once Paranormal Activity 2 unwinds its narrative thread – you’ll get caught up in it.  You might even trip.  In fact, I’ll bet you wouldn’t mind re-watching the original to find out what you missed the first time and I’ll go one step further and suggest that you wouldn’t even mind watching Paranormal Activity 3 next Halloween.

Just know that there are no freakin' basements in California.

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{2jtab: Film Info}

Paranormal Activity 2 Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for some language and brief violent material.
Director
: Tod Williams
Writer
: Michael R. Perry
Cast:
Katie Featherston
Genre
: Horror
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Memorable Movie Quote:
"What's Next"
Release Date: October 22, 2010
Blu-ray Release Date:
February 8, 2011.

Plot Synopsis: After experiencing what they think are a series of "break-ins", a family sets up security cameras around their home, only to realize that the events unfolding before them are more sinister than they seem.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

3 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 8, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (on disc); DVD copy

Writing about this film’s transfer quality is a bit of a washout. The film’s visual treatment isn’t your typical Hollywood affair; it isn’t showy or flashy in any way and is supposed to look like home recorded material; the stuff of security cameras. And, in this way, its 1080p transfer is exactly that.  Not glossy, but stylized as such. There’s nothing this or any other presentation could do to improve the self-selected handheld camera appearance of this film. The film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack isn’t completely honest; it includes some atmospheric effects a lone microphone would be tasked to pick up, but it works with a kick when in full effect.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Another disappointment as there are a select few of inclusions and what is a part of the package just isn’t very satisfying. Deleted scenes and a trailer do not a healthy dose of supplemental materials make.

They are as follows:

  • Found Footage (4 min)
  • Teaser Trailer
  • DVD Copy
  • Digital Copy

{2jtab: Trailer}

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