The follow-up to the lo-fi horror hit Paranormal Activity is a conceptual sequel that adopts the same slow-burn approach and found-footage style as the original film. It is still set in a single house where the characters are being tormented by things that go bump in the night except this time it is a family of four with various important secondary characters who are also involved. It is again a film compromising of home movie footage to give the impression that what is on screen is real footage found after the events have taken place. However, this time the footage is a lot sharper and clearer (they are using an HD camera) and the film effectively incorporates home security camera footage that apparently also records sound. The results are mostly on par with the original film.
Although utilising many of the same techniques that were already used in the original film, Paranormal Activity 2 creates a sense of dread through the constant suggestion that something unpleasant is going to happen. Alternating between the security camera footage and the HD camera footage allows the filmmakers to generate some great juxtapositions between moments of sound and movement with unnerving moments of silence and stillness.
The security camera footage is especially impressive in the way it creates a constant high angle perspective that looks down on the characters, making them appear increasingly vulnerable. The use of static long shots is also interesting in the way that the audience aren’t explicitly directed as to what part of the frame they should be looking at. It’s a pleasingly unconventional approach that means that the eye is constantly darting around the screen looking for what part of the room something might happen in. To further play with audience expectations there are a lot of these still scenes where absolutely nothing happens. Just knowing that something might occur is nerve-wracking enough and often more frightening than the scenes where we do see bizarre things at play.
In the end Paranormal Activity 2 is a little anti-climactic. It nicely builds up a chilling mood of dread but doesn’t capitalise on that fear quite as well as the original film did. The Spanish film [Rec] is still the best example of this style of new-media/found footage horror film and neither of the Paranormal Activity films are quite up to its standard. The first film was still very good and this new one is quite good. Paranormal Activity 2 does not wear out the concept from the original film although it doesn’t leave you wanting more either. It’s been fun but this feels like enough.