Paranormal Activity 2 (Tod Williams, 2010)

“I don’t know if the house is haunted, but I hope it is”

It is one thing if a film is a success – but if you have a film which is a success and cost next-to-nothing, believe me, the studio is happy. Yeah, sure, they will double the budget. How much will it be now?  $30,000 rather than the previous films $15,000? Instead, the budget rose to $3,000,000. Where did all that go? Did they build the house from scratch? I’ll bet Katie and Micah got paid twice-as-much for their cameos than anything recieved for the first film. But, with Saw at this point past the fifth-film, and continuing to take in a profit, the filmmakers didn’t want to do a Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows and destroy the series completely. They had to tread carefully and, indeed they did, ensuring that the sequel was faithful to it’s predescessor and also upping the stakes with thematic resolutions. Unlike the previous film, it was clear that this film had a defined theme: Greed.

Childhood and the Future

To set the scene, Paranormal Activity 2 is about a child. A new camera to capture the joy and beauty of a child. Katie and Micah did not have a child – and from the analysis of Paranomal Activity it is my assumption that their relationship would not cope well with a child. The baby is called ‘Hunter’ and we are told that the film is set 60 days before Paranormal Activity. We are led to believe that this is the ‘beginning’.

In terms of ‘upping’ the stakes, this time there are more people and more cameras. The context is plausible as the house is destroyed and they need cameras for security and surveillance – but this is where a theme begins to creep in. The reaction to the issue is excessive – surveillance throughout the entire house? We realise the scale of the building and how successful this family is – something not happening to Micah and Katie. Practically, I can see how the story dictates these themes as only a wealthy family could afford surveillance throughout the house, but I believe that as the film draws to a close, the truth is clear and this wealth was achieved through ill gotten means.

The Cost of Happiness

I remember a sermon I heard at a church many years ago whereby the preacher explained how it is fascinating how we live in a modern world whereby we can buy what we want, but are never satisfied; we have such a wide range of ways to communicate, but we cannot recreate the intimacy of a one-to-one conversation; we can travel anywhere in the world, but don’t feel safe at home.

That last point is what I find relevant to this story. A situation whereby a family who clearly have achieved a certain degree of success and wealth are not safe in their own home. Indeed, one of the most satisfying scares in the film is when cupboards that hold the families possessions suddenly open to the horror of Kristi (Sprague Grayden). Is there an assumption that the more you achieve in this world, the more paranoid you become? Too often we hear stories about how wealth has created horrendous situations. Lottery winners who explain how it was the worst thing that could happen to them as they were not accepted into wealthy-circles because they didn’t gain the money in a ‘fair’ manner whilst they were not accepted by their previous company as they could clearly access things they could not, which in turn, would affect their relationships with others.

We are told that, prior to Hunter, a deal was made whereby an exchange for wealth and success was made for the cost of the first-born male in the family. This dictates what lengths people will go for money – and how greed, in and of itself, can corrupt you. The finale of the film is more shocking as, though we can accept that this was the fault of a generation prior to Katie and Kristi, the Father decides that to ensure his families safety is intact – and their lifestyle is intact – he will pass the demon on to Kristi’s sister, Katie. It is easy to assume that the sins of the father can give us a certain element of peace as we realise that we are not at fault, but it is clear that the nature of greed and selfishness continues as the pain and trauma, in the Father’s case, he is happy to pass onto another family. 

Sins of the Father
It is clear that the father’s decision (like the decision of the Grandmother in making the deal in the first instance) is not ignored, and the demon-possessed Katie kills him in the last sequence. The fact that she has taken the child Hunter, clarifies further how this attitude towards ‘happiness’ will continue into the next generation.
Connecting the films together, we initially tackle relationships and then it moves onto family – and the values within family life. The values within Katie and Micahs relationship was unbalanced  – he failed to support her effectively, he ignored advice from experts, etc. In Paranormal Activity 2 we see how unbalanced values in a family can destroy the unit – they prioritise the importance of financial security in the family. Indeed, it is revealed that the purchase of the camera by the father is what influnences Micah’s decision to purchase a camera himself – the idea of influence and passing-values to others. The themes of greed, envy and excess is what litter this film and, considering the themes explored in Paranormal Activity, it again hints at what is important to people – and if money is rated highly, then be prepared for a shock when you achieve it.
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