I don’t think of myself as a horror wimp. I’ve seen it all, and I’ll watch the sequels. That said, the first Paranormal Activity creeped me out. Days later an unexplained noise or a movement in my peripheral vision would cause me to tense and search for its demonic origins. Paranormal Activity 2 is a worthy step in the series, but it nowhere nears the original’s scare-power.
Part of this is the budget. In the original, a tiny budget necessitated small-scale practical effects: loud banging echoed from the halls, and doors slammed of their own accord. In the sequel, a couch is thrown across the room by a demon — that’s just silly.
The film succeeds, however, in recreating the single-angle camera terror that was made famous by the first Paranormal Activity. In this film, a prequel to the original, a family brings home a bouncing baby boy. They also bring home a pissed-off demon, who messes up their home and rearranges their kitchen, for whatever reason. Convinced it’s burglars, the family sets up six surveillance cameras, which record their every move and the escalating haunting.
If you’ve seen the first film, you know where this is going and director Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor) is assuming that you’ve seen the original. He builds tension using audience expectation: Even though the kitchen looks quiet, you know something’s going to happen. As for the story, it doesn’t really matter and just creates plot holes for fans of the first.
The film provides enough genuine jumps and scares to be worth the money. You’ll long to re-watch the original when you leave the theater.