Monday, October 25, 2010

Minimalist, low-budget terror

“Paranormal Activity 2”
Two and a half stars

By Gary Buiso

Waiting is the hardest — and creepiest — part in “Paranormal Activity 2,” a prequel that mostly succeeds by following the same minimalistic formula of its low-budget forebear.

Kitchen cabinets, a pool filter and other mundane objects turn malevolent when a demon of a house guest moves in with Kristi (Sprague Grayden), her husband, Daniel (Brian Boland), teenage daughter, Ali (Molly Ephraim), baby Hunter, and German shepherd.

The dog is the first to sense that something stinks in suburbia, but the humans catch on, eventually. 

When the family returns from a barbecue, their place has been ransacked, but nothing is stolen, save for a necklace. Video cameras are installed, but the inexplicable continues to persist. 

The family nanny tries to rid the house of evil spirits — she speaks Spanish, and burns sage while cradling the baby — but this only gets her axed, professionally speaking, as Daniel is the last to admit that there may be a problemo. “Maybe it’s set to high or something,” he says about the pool filter, which seems to have a mind of its own.

Performances feel organic, but there is little chemistry between husband and wife. Besides the demon behind the curtain, German shepherd, Abby, is the real show stopper.

Director Tod Williams (“The Adventures of Sebastian Cole”) deliberately builds terror for the first hour, lingering on shots long enough to make them unsettling. Ironically, the film loses a bit of steam once it becomes more frenetic.

The first film’s demon-plagued couple, Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie (Katie Featherston) make an appearance in the prequel, which cleverly explains their fate — and sets the stage for another installment.

“Paranormal Activity” is the anti-”Saw,” — and it’s building a franchise.

“Paranormal Activity 2.” Rated R for language and brief violent material. Running time: 91 minutes. With Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston. Playing in Brooklyn at the Access Digital Theatres - Pavilion Cinema in Park Slope, UA Court Street Stadium 12 in Downtown, Kent Theatre in Coney Island, UA Sheepshead Bay 14, and Bay Ridge Alpine Cinemas.


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