OK, time for a little mental exercise.
Imagine if you will if, instead of getting “The Empire Strikes Back” as the sequel to “Star Wars”, we got something a little different. Instead of ice planets and swamp planets and asteroid fields and a climactic light saber duel, we got a bit of a prequel. In this prequel, we meet Luke’s brother, also a farm boy on a different planet. He comes to own a couple of droids who have secret plans to a new Imperial space station. He needs to get off the planet and return the plans to a member of a royal family, so he hooks up with a former Jedi and a roguish smuggler. They leave the planet, only to be captured on this space station. Later they rescue the member of the royal family, escape from the space station and later destroy it using the secret plans they were trying to return. The movie ends with Princess Leia’s ship being attacked by a Star Destroyer.
While I understand that one of the tricks of making a good sequel is to use some of the same elements that made the original successful, at some point you have to expand the world, give it depth, a life of its own and not just rehashing it.
“Paranormal Activity 2” starts roughly two months before the paranormal activities of the first film. Here, we meet Katie’s sister, Kristi. She’s a new mom and the opening minutes show footage of her and her family – husband Dan and stepdaughter Ali – bringing home the new baby, Hunter. Everything is sunshine and bunnies until the house is “broken into.” As a precaution, Dan has security cameras set up throughout the house and soon, the strangeness begins.
Let me start with a few positives about this movie. On the whole, it’s not a bad little thriller. It does a good job of connecting itself to the first film, even expanding the universe ever so slightly, and even provides a few good scares.
Remember the exercise we started out with? Here is the real world example of it. “Paranormal Activity 2” is virtually an exact rehash of the first movie: character for character, beat for beat. Sure you have the addition of a stepdaughter, a dog, a baby and a nanny, but it all distills down into the girl with the supernatural stalker and the disbelieving, abrasive significant other. It felt so similar that I thought you could probably take a timeline of both movies, overlay them and match them up almost identically. Not only do they rely on the same personal dynamics, they also rely on the exact same scares as the first movie. The only real difference is that we have six cameras to catch a mysteriously opening door or moving pan. Otherwise, they follow the exact same setup as they did in the first movie: silence followed by a rumbling that builds gradually that finally births a jump scare. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. And with the exception of one good scare, the rest of the film doesn’t just emulate the first movie; it downright duplicates a scare from the original. It’s not so much that they are stealing from the first movie, it’s more like they are cloning it and slapping a “2” and the end of the title
At the end of the day, “Paranormal Activity 2” doesn’t feel like a prequel or a sequel. It feels like a cheat. King Solomon once said there is nothing new under the sun. This movie proves it.