Paranormal Activity 2 wisely steers clear of the alienating stylistic shift made by Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, capturing the action through an eerie combination of the characters' shaky camcorders and static security cameras. This pseudo-documentary voyeurism leads to a handful of genuinely terrifying moments that will make the entire cinema jump in unison. Yet much of the movie plays out as an inferior rerun of the original, with the sudden slamming of doors, abrupt thuds and deployment of the Ouija board reeking of overfamiliarity. The broad concept certainly has much more mileage, but the lack of innovation in the majority of the screenplay gives a different impression.
The plot development adheres closely to the original, as a young family move into a new home and endure a spiralling succession of supernatural events from an unseen menace. The suffering protagonists are a husband and wife, their teenage daughter, a baby and an Alsatian that delivers a canine acting masterclass. The housekeeper also makes her presence felt on several occasions. A twist soon emerges though, as the events surrounding poor Micah and Katie from the original movie start to become entwined with this new paranormal visitation, for reasons that are too spoilerish to describe. However, all this background mythology is mere subterfuge compared to the very basic-yet-effective nature of the frights sporadically deployed throughout the movie. One particular daylight shock in the kitchen is absolutely genius, in terms of idea and execution.
The proliferation of housebound characters in the sequel, compared to the original movie's isolated couple, results in a lack of empathy for their fates. Too long is spent dwelling on tediously repetitive CCTV shots of their swimming pool or staircase for example, instead of spending more time in their company. In fact, too long is devoted to capturing absolute nothingness in a bid to generate suspense and then confound expectations by not delivering the anticipated payoff shock. It's a bold strategy, but not rewarding enough. There are just so many times you can stare at a still shot of a darkened bedroom scrutinising every nook and cranny for some kind of ethereal movement.
While the meagre rationing of shocks is undoubtedly frustrating for the bulk of the movie, this allows the final act plenty of room to crank the fear factor up to 11. It does so with calculated precision, leading to a frenzied final 20 minutes which contains enough sustained suspense to ensure that Paranormal Activity 2 is more than a lazy retread of the original. The old adage of 'saving the best for last' reaps rewards in this instance, although the journey to reach that stage should have been made more palatable with a slicker script peppered with more incident and ingenuity.
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