Revealing more of the mystery reduces the scare factor but ups the intrigue.
After an apparent break-in, homeowner Daniel (Brian Boland) decides to protect his family by having security cameras installed in all the common areas plus the baby’s room. When things continue to happen with no explanation, the housekeeper Martine (Vivis Cortez) is caught attempting to ward away “evil spirits,” prompting Daniel to throw her out. Meanwhile, Daniel’s wife Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and his daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) continue to experience odd happenings but no one seems to connect that it may be centered on toddler Hunter. But it’s only after Kristi confesses to her visiting sister Katie (Katie Featherston) what’s been going on that things really begin to escalate.
In an cleverly scripted sequel to the runaway sleeper hit Paranormal Activity, a new family is introduced who’s time line overlaps the events leading to Micah’s death in the first film. Introducing a family history of the paranormal along with a fresh excuse to record the proceedings keeps the look, attitude, and incidental humor of the first film while expanding upon the original idea. In the end, nothing has really changed yet more is a stake, resulting in not a scarier film but one with a terrifying idea that (of course) demands a third film to resolve.
With an expanded cast of “real” characters including Katie and Micah from the original, it isn’t too much of a stretch to couple these two stories together into parts of the same tale. The fast forwarding and convenient power failure tricks seem more familiar this time around, but the quiet stillness of the video footage is just as effective at the boo scares the second time around. Filmmakers thankfully went away from witch boards and cheesy fire tricks to more plausible effects that, if someone were to describe them without seeing them, they seem rather benign, the perfect cover for a spook with an agenda.
Unlike The Blair Witch Project, the producers of Paranormal Activity seem to have a better grasp on what they want out of their franchise and have been careful not to stray too far from it. At the same time, expanding the over-arcing story with a relative who has both blood and the paranormal in common is both risky and smart, expanding the landscape and raising the stakes. The only question is, how much further can they push this concept and these soft video special effects while still delivering the goods?
(a three skull recommendation out of four)