I saw the original Paranormal Activity at least a year before it was released in theaters, and found it pretty slow (I understand the theatrical cut was a lot tighter and that the ending was modified… I never did watch it again). Therefore, it wasn't with great anticipation that I slipped the Paranormal Activity 2 disc into my player.
A prequel, Paranormal Activity 2 takes place about two months prior to the spirits' shenanigans sprung forth on the first. A sunny San Diego, CA., casa provides the platform for the evil undoing of a happy family with a new baby — these are the Reys: Kristi (Sprague Grayden), her husband (Brian Boland), his elder daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim), and Kristi's sister Katie (Katie Featherston from the first film… guess who survives this hellish haunting?).
Even though the viewer will know a lot going in, right down to the contrived conceit (the old "found footage" routine, plus home video which seems a little more natural with the arrival of the new baby and all), many will find Paranormal Activity 2 suspenseful and invigorating. While I probably wouldn't walk across the street to see it again, I was pleasantly surprised and reasonably entertained, watching it for the first time.
The film starts off with Daniel documenting the after-effects a supposed break-in of the Rey house… it's an odd intrusion, as nothing seems to have been stolen, but the place was ransacked with a fury (except for baby Hunter's room. Hmmm). Daniel installs a state-of-the-art surveillance system, which includes (conveniently enough) cameras in every nook and corner. Even so, the unease isn't dispelled as the disturbed family dog tries frantically to dig his way away and the Latina housekeeper casts Santeria spells all over the place, and the baby cries unusually often.
There's been some recent success in the documentary / found footage style horror films (I liked Rec2 and The Last Exorcism) — a medium that's not easy to command. But the actors (doing a lot of adlibbing, if you believe the press releases) are naturally funny, witty, and believable, paving the way nicely for actual concern on the viewer's part. The video footage moments are more tense than in the original, in that there aren't any jump scares or gimmicks. Overall, I enjoyed Paranormal Activity 2 and I'd recommend it even if you weren't a fan of the first. (FYI, there are no extras on the DVD… it's "in character" as being the real deal and not a made-up movie.)
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson