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Parafamiliar Activity

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity II (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Paranormal Activity II
opens with thanks to the Cardsbad Police Department and then introduces the Sloat family moving into their new home. They are to be the targets of a malevolent presence and are introduced with baby-cooing and other family-based, believable small-talk. It's family chatter, totally normal.

What is not so normal are families that are this dependent on documenting things with video cameras. A few are. To make the too-frequent recording seem not such a stretch, home security cameras do most of the recording after the family is mysteriously vandalized by someone or something that clearly isn't after their money. Oddly enough, no one seems to care about or spend much time at work to afford this fabulous house or the cameras that help protect it. And about as odd, these cameras conveniently pick up audio when most security cameras do not.

Is it the house that has something in it that wants you to leave, or is the haunting entity something as selectively sinister as that hellish thing in the first Paranormal Activity? It's the same wicked thing. A light goes off, a baby cries, a dog scratches at the floor. Weird things start to happen.

You get the daily repetition of the family and shots of the house. You get to know the family. You find that the owner is a skeptic. It will take some major haunting to convince him, of course. Thank heavens [God?] for cameras and digital technology? Well, some would say these characters should. Some would say to go ahead and thank him for allowing demons to exist so that ole' Jesus could later allow crosses of himself to repel them and convince the faithless. I'm not thankful to the deities for anything. 

I know that I'm thankful for a horror movie that keeps its ghoulish entity enshrouded in as much mystery as possible. This one follows suit with the former in that regard, and in most every other. Part II is not a disappointment. It is scary, but a non-raving and familiar tag-along of a success. It relies on the first film's platform of a family being plagued by an unknown entity, finding out what is happening on the internet, before finally finding the hideous being to be more than a match in ferocity.

I can't stand parents who name a little kid, “Hunter.” The name is as bad as “Toby.” I have no serious axe to grind on superstitious Hispanic maids working for well-off families, but when they just happen to have an inkling for sniffing out possible evil presences, I'm not thrilled. Nice plot device, but a little clich├ęd. 

Part 2 draws too much attention to itself, making you less convinced you are watching footage compiled of a horrible crime and more like you're watching one in a number of current new films that try to seem like it. It instills fear, if only a smidgen less than the first film, but offers more suspense midway through until the end. The acting is also better.

The ending is our biggest let-down, where the director (not the same dude who directed the first one) apparently decides that showing off demon strength is cooler than further time spent digging in the muddy trenches for writing that requires real creativity. The majority of points are for the suspense, but I still feel like I'm being kind. Like the first one, it passes because it does mainly one thing well.

(JH)

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Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R (for some language and violent material)
Director: Tod Williams
Summary: The Sloat family begins to experience terrifying things in their home after a supposed break-in.
Starring: Katie Featherston "Katie," Micah Sloat "Micah"
Genre: Horror
Trailer

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