Why I say this is that it is a bamboozling experience. It looks terrible and therefore expects you to accept not only substandard imagery but also expects you to riveted by a film which is most lacking in incident. While I can credit the first installment with having a rather consistent strain of tension that never quite amps things up, this film is nowhere near as fortunate, or even as enjoyable, as that mess.
The first thing that will quickly grate on your nerves is that this film takes the Rule of Three to the Nth power. Nearly every day in the story, of which there are many, starts with the same half-dozen establishing shots. Few of which ever lead to an incident almost none of which ever leads to anything of real consequence.
These shots artificially inflate the running time of a film which ought not reach feature film status. Now there may have been other scenes shot that ended up on the cutting room floor that would’ve been more interesting but we’ll never know.
There is a reason that the New Wave hated establishing shots. They are more often than not unnecessary. There is something reassuring, not disconcerting, about the predictability in the pattern of the edit remaining the same when no new information is conveyed through the shots. We know what the location is always, the film doesn’t leave the house, so these shots are unnecessary and don’t advance the story in any way, shape or form.
Furthermore it is a film that handcuffs itself by being beholden to the surveillance camera angle to capture the action with. Yet this film like the previous one feels no need to pay lip-service to how someone found and cut together the footage. There is just a title that is meant to fool the more gullible element of the audience into thinking this really happened.
Lack of incident isn’t a cardinal sin in and of itself, there are plenty of things that can create tension when the big scare isn’t happening but this film either chooses not to utilize (score) or doesn’t utilize them effectively (cast), such that the film just becomes and exercise in banality and the cinematic equivalent of a “surprise symphony” in which the filmmakers will nearly lull the audience to sleep and then a rare, big shock will rouse the audience to life. Sadly, not all the major scares are effective. Only one can be called truly effective and more than one are laughable.
To carry off a mockumentary style you need pristine acting like you got in The Last Exorcism and even that fell short. Here you get Acting with a capital A, which is the antithesis of being naturalistic which is paramount when the bill of goods you’re trying to sell is one of veracity. For some sense of the quality of thespian you have in this film the best in the cast are twins William Juan and Jackson Xenia Prieto, as Hunter, the baby; Vivis as Martine and the dog.
Pace is the child of Necessity in film. What pace does the story necessitate to be effective? This is an equation in which the film does not have the answer. It plays an overly-methodical hand thinking it is constantly, but slowly, ratcheting things up but it is not.
It is a film quite nearly fails to comprehend the function of a scene. What came to mind was Hitchcock’s example of building suspense. You show a bomb under a table and cut to the conversation above. You periodically cut to the bomb counting down anew and regardless of what the conversation is about suspense is built. This film treats its entire narrative as one scene and doesn’t set up plot points but one or two major incidents such that the journey is nearly pointless and it ends up being a waiting game, which goes back to not knowing the function of a scene. Each scene needs a purpose. Each scene needs to progress the film. Not every moment of this film is essential. Not every scene moves the story, nearly none of them build suspense.
It is a poorly told, wasteful exercise in narrative cinema.
Paranormal Activity 2 is available on DVD and Blu-Ray today.