Starring Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, and Katie Featherston. Rated 14A.
Wes Craven’s putrid My Soul to Take notwithstanding, the horror scene is looking pretty good these days. Buried offered real-time claustrophobic chills; Devil was better than any antichrist-in-an-elevator flick should be; and The Last Exorcism wrung unholy suspense out of a possessed-teen premise. But none of those films touches Paranormal Activity 2 for sheer jolt-you-in-your-seat terror. It’s the scariest movie in years.
Watch the trailer for Paranormal Activity 2.
PA2 is, technically, a prequel to 2007’s extremely low-budget ($11,000) documentary-style hit about a couple whose daily routine takes a horrifying turn when they start videotaping unexplained goings-on in their house. There was only one camera running in Paranormal Activity, though, whereas in the follow-up, a mysterious break-in causes concerned couple Kristi and Daniel (Sprague Grayden and Brian Boland) to install surveillance cameras throughout their spacious California home. Even when nothing’s happening you can’t help intently scanning the screen, trying to detect some semblance of movement through the static security lens. It’s an unsettling experience, especially when you are viewing the besieged family’s nursery, where toddler Hunter lolls in his crib.
Attention new parents! Get your nightmares here!
The Door in the Floor director Tod Williams skillfully orchestrates a vibe of mundane domesticity in the first 30 minutes, but just before your tedium detector goes off he starts injecting mild doses of dread. An insidious supernatural force invades the peaceful home like ghostly termites, gnawing at universal comfort zones before Williams shocks you to the core with a cooking pot or some cupboard doors.
Things get a little too much like Blair Witch near the end, shaky camera–wise, but it’s a minor quibble. Every single performance rings true, and the plot tie-in from the first film works seamlessly. The makers of Paranormal Activity 2 rejected the opportunity to rip off and cash in on its worthy predecessor, and thanks to them I feel proud to be a horror fan again.
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