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Paranormal Activity 2(2010)
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.
For more about Paranormal Activity 2 and the Paranormal Activity 2 Blu-ray release, see Paranormal Activity 2 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 28, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Sprague Grayden, Seth Ginsberg
Director: Tod Williams
» See full cast & crew
Paranormal Activity 2 Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 28, 2011
Paramount Pictures would like to thank the families of the deceased and the Carlsbad Police Department.
As far as movies about things that go "bump" in the night, Paranormal Activity is the undisputed king. In fact, it's a movie where things go "bump" in the night and almost nothing else happens; the movie was short on scares but rather high in originality and ingenuity, which at the time more than made up for the lack of real horror. Made for little more than the cost of the camera, Paranormal Activity was a monster hit for Paramount, the film probably one of the highest grossing of all time in terms of dollars in versus dollars out. It's no surprise that a sequel was quick to materialize, and here it is. Paranormal Activity 2 is pretty much the same movie, even brining back characters from the first for good measure. The result? A clone that's barely distinguishable from its predecessor and about as scary as watching a pool vacuum finagle its way out of the water. Is that really what passes for horror these days? Cabinets that open, doors that shut, and pots that drop, all on their own? OK, OK. So there's more to it than that, but really, not much. The terror is supposed to stem from scares implied as much as scares seen and heard, but the movie is really a whole 'lotta nothin' outside of a few "gotcha" moments that are accompanied by loud noises for emphasis.
Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Dan (Brian Boland) Rey are a California couple living in a handsome two-story home complete with a pool. They share the house with Dan's daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim), a German Shepard named Abby, and a housekeeper named Martine (Vivis Cortez). The newest edition is Kristi and Dan's first child together, a baby boy they name Hunter (William Juan and Jackson Xenia Prieto). Kristi's sister is Katie (Katie Featherston), a character audiences know -- and know of her fate -- from the first film. With the family picture set, Paranormal Activity 2 opens with a supposed break-in of the Rey household. The place is trashed, everything overturned except for baby Hunter's room, which went untouched. Nothing appears to have been stolen, either, save for one of Kristi's family heirloom necklaces. Dan orders a high-tech video surveillance system installed throughout the house; cameras gaze into the living room, kitchen, bedrooms, nursery, entryway, and the backyard pool. Another break-in never occurs, but strange happenings continue. Pots fall from their holders; cabinets randomly open; and the housekeeper senses the presence of spirits, some good, some bad. Abby and Hunter appear to be aware of the paranormal activity as well, but the rest of the family seems immune. That is, until, Kristi becomes victimized time and again by some unseen force. With her sister Katie offering moral support within the context of the family's unsettling history with unexplainable events, Kristi attempts to cope with the nightly intrusions into her life. Can she and her family survive the mounting terrors, or will they be torn apart from shattered nerves or something even more sinister?
There's no doubt things like what's depicted in Paranormal Activity 2 would be scary -- in real life. Horror at its core is an escapist genre -- better to see the Vampires and the masked killers and the crazy neighbors and the demons and all of those things up on the screen rather in the flesh -- but it's hard to see the scares in a movie where outside of the last five minutes, the most "frightening" scene amounts to a bunch of kitchen cabinets that spring open all by themselves. It makes for a good jump scare -- the biggest in the movie -- but Paranormal Activity 2 never seems capable of mounting any real tension or, more important, plopping the audience in the house alongside the characters and experiencing the would-be scary goings-on firsthand. There's a disappointing disconnect here, and never does the movie manage any sort of pace, capture any sort of intensity, or play on any sort of fear. It's the exact same problem that plagued a similar movie, The Blair Witch Project; there's a failure to find the balance between visual and psychological fear. Both films eschew the visual in favor of the unseen and the unknown, banking on the abnormalities littered through the film to frighten audiences. It's easy to be afraid of the chainsaw-wielding maniac or the blood-sucking vampire; it's another thing entirely to find the terror in a dog barking at a door or the lights suddenly going out. That requires a special skill -- an ability to engage an audience with almost nothing to work with -- that's clearly lacking throughout Paranormal Activity 2.
Compounding the problem is a completely unlikable character roster. Perhaps its stems from the movie's voyeuristic flavor, but the characters just seem like people who, while not deserving of their plight, audiences might find difficulty in rooting for. They give off negative vibes, the acting feels too forced, and the characters seem like they were written to make them look and feel like an all-American family when in reality the only tangible connection with them comes in that the audience is living their lives vicariously through the magic of video. The film so desperately wants the characters to be anyone and everyone in the audience that it otherwise forgets about the audience altogether, leaving a detached and distant feeling that goes back full circle to the film's primary problem. Paranormal Activity 2 does smartly connect to the first film beyond title; it's a prequel of sorts that introduces additional family members and returns the first film's couple as seen prior to their own "paranormal" invasion. It also smartly integrates a series of security cameras into the equation that allow for a more common sense means having all of the footage available, but Paranormal Activity 2 does become a tedious exercise in watching the same few angles in the same few rooms over and over again. The film does set up the franchise for a third installment, and if nothing else it instills a sense of wanting to see it through to the end, but for no reasons other than sheer curiosity and to see how they'd actually go about making the third one within the context of the old "who, what, when, where, and why." As the series is set up at the end of 2, a more traditional film in style and structure would seem to be a viable option, but then again that would sacrifice that ingenuity and novelty that made at least the first picture such a treat.
Paranormal Activity 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Paranormal Activity 2's 1080p Blu-ray transfer is culled from several sources that aren't exactly up to the challenge of producing eye candy visuals. The film is comprised entirely of consumer-grade (or so it seems) handheld camera footage and several security "eyes in the sky" lenses that create something of a slight concave look, none of which offer anything that even approaches film-perfect results. Jagged edges, harsh lighting, noise aplenty, poor colors, sloppy details, several soft shots, and the like are the norm, but that's what the movie is supposed to look like. That leaves little room for honest criticism of the Blu-ray transfer; there's nothing this or any format can do to make it look better, and if it could make it look better, that would come at the expense of the artistic vision and intended appearance of the film. So while the transfer does have its moments -- red and yellow peppers stand out as nicely colored and a few instances of notably good detailing are evident -- it's not really one that deserves criticism for its many shortcomings.
Paranormal Activity 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Almost the same may be said of Paranormal Activity 2's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. If the film were being completely honest, its soundtrack would be sourced from nothing but the built-in microphone of the video camera and whatever sound-capturing devices may or may not be associated with the security cameras. As it is, the track is artificially enhanced to an extent, primarily in several scenes where a low, rumbly sensation seems added into the track. Said bass plays as rather sloppy and undefined, but that helps to give the track a more "natural" flavor. Generally, this is a dialogue-intensive film, and many times the spoken word has an edgy, mushy tone, but that's in conjunction with how this movie is intended to roll. Screams are suitably high pitched, and some occasional background noises -- the droning of an A/C unit, maybe? -- create some much-needed ambience. Most of the track is delivered straight up the middle -- whether dialogue or sound effects -- but a few heavier effects do manage to sneak out of the other speakers. Generally, the track is limited by design and the clunky, unpolished feel is all part of the experience.
Paranormal Activity 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Like its predecessor's Blu-ray release, Paranormal Activity 2 comes with a negligible selection of extra content. The disc does contain both the 91-minute theatrical cut and the longer 98-minute extended cut.
Paranormal Activity 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Once seemed to be enough for a movie like this. Paranormal Activity 2 feels completely redundant, even if it does play in conjunction with the story and characters of the first movie. What was then a novel idea seems tired and uninspired now, primarily because there's just almost nothing new about this entry. Same premise, same style, new and old characters, and only a "prequel" continuation of the story is all that's here. Somehow, the film redeems itself in the final few minutes, at least in terms of setting up a third movie and piquing the curiosity, but fulfilling that curiosity just might not be worth the effort if Paranormal Activity 3 is going to follow the same formula so exactly. Maybe in the third one the doorbell can ring a few times -- only there won't be anyone at the door! Aaaaahhhh!!! Paramount's Blu-ray release of Paranormal Activity 2 seems to replicate the film's visual and aural scheme perfectly. Flaws are readily evident, but they're part of the experience; no need to trash the technical merits if they're faithfully replicating the source. The real shame is the lack of extra content. For some reason neither Paranormal Activity film has featured anything even close to what would pass as a decent supplemental section, but maybe the point is to maintain an air of mystery about the whole thing. Oh well, less work for the reviewer. Fans will want to buy, but casual viewers would be best served by renting or just sticking with the first movie.
Paranormal Activity 2: Other Editions
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Paranormal Activity 2 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, Feb. 7-13: Paranormal Activity 2 Is #1 - February 17, 2011
Paranormal Activity 2 was the top-selling title on Blu-ray during the week ended February 13, according to Nielsen VideoScan. Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls, which was #1 in packaged media overall, only managed fourth place in hidef. The title with the biggest ...
• This Week on Blu-ray - February 8-14 - February 8, 2011
Katherine Heigl plays Holly, an uptight entrepreneur. Josh Duhamel plays Messer, a dysfunctional sports director. Together, they star in Life as We Know It, which sees this odd couple forced together after tragedy takes the lives of two mutual friends, and Holly ...
• Paranormal Activity 2 Announced on Blu-ray - December 21, 2010
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced Paranormal Activity 2 for Blu-ray release on February 8, 2011, in a BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. This "chillingly realistic" prequel to 2009's sleeper hit Paranormal Activity will be presented both in its original theatrical ...
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