Let’s do this.
No one could have been surprised that a sequel was made due to the popularity of the first film. There are a few differences though, and the biggest one is that there is no longer a small budget. This one cost 3 million bucks (as opposed to 15k for the first one), so you would think the scares and stuff would be markedly better.
You would think, but you’d be wrong.
This time around we follow Katie’s sister Kristi, her husband Daniel, her step-daughter Ali, and newborn Hunter. After a break in, the family buys an assload of security cameras and equipment (that is the technical term) to put Kristi’s mind at ease. However, some weird stuff starts happening, and the maid Martine begins saying there are evil spirits in the home. Rationally, Daniel fires Martine and goes about his normal business, and that is part of the problem.
The first Paranormal Activity operates on a steady progression of events. We start with some creep, but then it escalates quickly and evenly. For the sequel, we end up watching the family just be a family for far too long. The small scares don’t work, and several of them are kind of nonsense. The pool cleaner comes out of the pool at night—terrifying! A pan also falls off the rack, which unnerves Kristi, but it isn’t entirely clear why. What these kind of lame scares do is make the film a bit boring.
We also have some crappy characters this time around. Daniel is a genuine piece of work, and belittles his daughter and wife at every chance. Kristi believes in ghosts, and is worried something might be happening, but he won’t even hear it. We also get some pretty damning evidence of spiritual activity on the cameras, but that must just be the wind. This two features create a hugely problematic scenario.
The spouse (it is usually the husband) who doesn’t believe their partner that something is going on (despite evidence) is a tired trope in horror. Let’s actually parse this one out: either the person you married (which implies trust) has gone insane, or something is genuinely bothering them. Obviously, the best solution is to be a total dick at every chance. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I think I would trust my wife enough to at least give the benefit of the doubt and try to find an explanation other than blowing it off. I think most people would react that way, and horror would do well to start showcasing healthy relationships. By the end of the film I hated Daniel, he is an obnoxious bully, so when he is in danger I felt nothing.
The second problem with this scenario is why did they even bother putting cameras in if they aren’t going to check them? The baby is floating in the air one night and no one notices (this is the same night Ali has the front door slam behind her and lock her out, so they had a reason to watch). There is at least an argument that Micah wanted to capture proof of a haunting in the first one (and he is constantly watching the footage), here the films only exist as a way for us to see the scares, not the characters.
The found footage aspect worked in the first film because it wasn’t a tired trick (yet) and they built the plot around it. With such a bloated budget, the second one could have moved away from the found footage and just made a film. The reasoning behind holding a camera at all times is going to become increasingly thin as the series goes on, and the decision to keep with the trope in the first sequel I think set the tone for the rest.
We also start to get some cult lore shoveled in here, and this is something the other films will continue to add on to. I think the cult stuff is interesting, but the few minutes of this discussion don’t outweigh the overall boredom that this movie causes. We also start to get some planet sized plot holes as we have reverse rational for the first film jammed in.
If the first film was a well-running machine, this film uses the same machine but broke its neck first. I think this one can be skipped.