The first Paranormal Activity
was spooky, but by no means memorable. It was the kind of gimmick-laden film that worked the first time around, but was going to be a misfire if they ever decided to use that shtick again.
If you didn't see it, it was the story of a couple (including a girl called Katie) who feel some strange happening in their house, and install video cameras to record what goes on. The result was a horror film comprised entirely of surveillance/CCTV footage film to give that added spookiness.
With the second film, Paramount got a different director (the first film was made by Oren Peli on a budget of a little more than $10,000 dollars), upped the budget, and saw if they could franchise this gubbins. Turns out they can.
The film isn't fresh, but setting it up as a direct prequel to the film makes fans of the first want to watch it with interest. The found footage nature of the franchise is kept intact too, despite the money that Paramount must have thrown on it.
The film starts with a new-born baby being brought home for the first time by proud parents Kristi and Daniel. We are shortly introduced to her nanny, elder sister and Aunt Katie - the very Katie from the first film. This film explores the possibility of the paranormal existing in their lives before the events of the first film, and this neat little connection lets audiences connect.
After an ostensible burglary, the family installs CCTV cameras in their house, and we see the family dog always restless, the baby always looking to a corner as if he sees something, and a lot of scary little happenings all through the day and night. Anything else will be a spoiler, so suffice it to say that nasty things happen.
The bad news is that the film is atrociously paced - there are regular intervals of the film which feel boring, and the end feels rushed and quite incoherent.
The scares are bigger, but not necessarily better either - while Tod Williams proves as able as Oren Peli with the mood, his scares are more Hollywood, in as much as a found footage film is now Hollywood.
Probably the worst thing about this is the plot - your mileage may vary, but to me this feels a lot more like a Scooby Doo episode with easy answers found with a bit of sleuthing. The ever-changing nature of the paranormal is compromised too often, with clear-cut explanations of what is going on and why certain things are being spooked upon.
Overall it's not exactly the worst horror film you'll see, but it isn't necessarily the best. If you enjoyed the first one, this one is made exactly for you. If you have no clue what the '2' in the title is for, forget about it.