Paranormal Activity 2 is a 2010 found footage paranormal film directed by Tod Williams and written by Oren Peli, Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, and Tom Pabst. The movie is the direct prequel and sequel to Paranormal Activity (2007) – with scenes taking place both before and after the events of the first film.
Paranormal Activity 2 opens with a message from Paramount studios thanking the families of the deceased and the local police department. The first scene in the film takes place before Paranormal Activity (2007), following Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and her husband Daniel (Brian Boland) carrying their newborn son Hunter into their home for the first time. Also with the couple is their teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim). Armed with a handheld video camera, Daniel enthusiastically films the arrival of their new son.
The film transitions several months later where we see Kristi’s sister Katie (Katie Featherston) and boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat) visiting for a pool party. As a callback to the first film, Micah is enthralled with Daniel’s new video camera, setting the stage for what will become the object of Micah’s obsession in Paranormal Activity (2007).
Jumping ahead in time once again, we see Daniel filming his house which was ransacked by an alleged intruder. Furniture is overturned and many belongings are destroyed, but oddly enough nothing is missing other than a neckless given to Kristi by her sister Katie. The incident prompts daniel to hire a security company to install surveillance cameras throughout the house.
With cameras installed and footage recording non-stop, inexplicable events start to take place in the family’s home. The family hears strange noises and objects seem to move on their own accord. Matters turn from curious amusement to outright terror as the paranormal activity escalates to dangerous proportions.
The filming reasons used throughout Paranormal Activity 2 are very good and plentiful. The couple’s initial motivation for filming is to capture memories of their newborn child, Hunter. Most parents will admit (albeit begrudgingly) to obsessively filming the first year of their child’s life.
Daniel films the house after an alleged break-in to document the event, presumably for insurance or the police. The break-in also creates an exceptional justification for installing security cameras throughout the house. Towards the end of Paranormal Activity 2, Daniel uses the night vision on his handheld video camera as a light source when the power presumably goes out.
The scene where the security camera company installs the surveillance cameras is a brilliant addition to the film. The dialog offered by the surveillance camera expert (David Bierend) is the perfect vehicle to quickly and efficiently explain how many surveillance cameras are needed, their placement in the house, how they record, and their features (night vision and motion detection). This one short scene communicates everything viewers need to know in a no-nonsense manner.
Although the filming reasons used throughout Paranormal Activity 2 are very good, there are scenes where the filming reason falters. The plot provides no motivation for the characters to film each other while watching the previous night’s surveillance footage. This filming approach works well in Paranormal Activity (2007) since Micah is obsessed with capturing proof and filming everything, but feels out of place in the second film. The family members in Paranormal Activity 2 do not share the same obsessive behavior as Micah. In fact, Daniel, who shoots most of the handheld footage is the most skeptical of all the characters, further weakening this filming reason.
Found Footage Cinematography
The cinematography in Paranormal Activity 2 is generally good. The fixed surveillance cameras capture footage in both daytime and night vision. These cameras are strategically placed to capture everything throughout the house, so most everything is captured in-frame. The handheld video camera footage is not overly shaky, a necessity for a film with a theatrical release.
One particular scene near the end of the film employs some creative choreography. The handheld video camera (with night vision enabled) is askew on the floor, while Daniel crawls in pitch blackness with arms stretched as he tries to find his bearings.
Paranormal Activity 3 uses a trope original defined in the first film. a low-pitched humming sound preceding each paranormal event. Viewers conscious of this trope are likely to find themselves on alert whenever the noise starts, as this sound is indicative that something is about to happen.
Found Footage Purity
The found footage purity in Paranormal Activity 2 is perfect. The footage presented is presumed to have been edited by a third party to take the form of the feature film. To the film’s credits, Paranormal Activity 2 contains no opening title card, incidental music, or sound design. The special effects are subtle yet effective, adding to the overall realism.
Sprague Grayde, as Kristi performs exceptionally well as the female lead. She is a woman tormented by buried memories of a childhood trauma that is starting to repeat itself. Of particular note is the great chemistry between Sprague Grayde and Katie Featherston, as Kristi’s sister Katie. These two actresses are entirely believable as sisters and act as though they truly have known each other since childhood.
Katie Featherston’s reprisal as character Katie and Micah Sloat as character Micah lend a familiar and comfortable feel to Paranormal Activity 2. The appearance of Micah Sloat is also likely to remind viewers of Micah’s ultimate fate, an event that is revisited near the end of the film.
Brian Boland as Daniel is convincing as the husband to Kristi and father to Alie. He is a man who has his hands full with his career, a new child, and coping with all of the strange events taking place at home. Daniel is so overwhelmed with his daily routine, that he can’t (or perhaps is unwilling to) see what is actually taking place.
Molly Ephraim performs admirably as Ali. She is convincing as the teenage daughter who is at her wits end because her parents are unwilling to acknowledge what she’s discovered. Ali’s mom understands what’s happening, but believes ignoring the problem will make everything go away. Alie’s dad is in a state of denial, refusing to even look at the evidence his daughter meticulously compiled.
Vivis Colombetti is wonderful as nanny Martine. Martine is somehow sensitive to and acutely aware of the off worldly presence in the house she’s tending to. The rituals she engages in create a feeling of validation as to what’s actually happening, which makes the plight of Kristi, Daniel, and Ali that much more terrifying.
Paranormal Activity 2 follows the same basic formula as the first film but ramps up the paranormal activity and jump scares. Observant fans of Paranormal Activity (2007) won’t be disappointed as the second film includes some great easter eggs and callbacks.
The first and second film share a number of common plot elements, including use of aa ouija board, conducting Internet research on demons, filming the review of previous night’s surveillance footage, and paranormal experts (paranormal pyscic in Paranormal Activity (2007) vs Martine in Paranormal Activity 2).
Since Paranormal Activity 2 starts before the first film, Katie and Micah are able to make a reprisal in the second film. The plot also divulges how and why Micah becomes interested in buying the video camera used in Paranormal Activity (2007). Also introduced in the second film is the origin of the childhood photograph of Katie that somehow makes its way into Katie’s and Micah’s attic in Paranormal Activity (2007).
Paranormal Activity 2 ingeniously uses surveillance cameras, which increases the scope of the film and works better with the larger ensemble cast.
Including the family dog, Abby, adds another layer of tension to the film. Animals are considered by many to be more sensitive than people to the paranormal. The fact that Abby can sense the presence in the house, whereas the other characters cannot, creates a sense of helplessness. In the same vein as Abby, Hunter seems to be able to perceive that something is in the house, which harkens back to the notion that children are more susceptible to the paranormal than adults.