Paranormal Activity 2 (15, 91 mins)
Director: Tod Williams
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Released just under a year ago to decent acclaim and boffo box office (considering its miniscule budget), Paranormal Activity was a horror success story of near Blair Witch proportions. Its simple device of presenting camcorder footage of a couple, Katie and Micah, being terrorised by unseen forces was stunningly persuasive and genuinely frightening.
This quick-out-the-blocks sequel is actually a prequel, set a few weeks before the events of the first film, with the focus now on the family of Katie’s sister, Kristi. As before, everything we see is shot on their own camera, beginning with Kristi and her husband Dan returning home with their new baby, Hunter.
We get snippets of footage of Hunter going from baby to toddler, taking us up to a break-in at their home that leads to Dan and Kristi installing security cameras all around the house, which allows for the action to be covered from various vantage points at all times, rather than just when the video camera is being used.
This means we get to see the increasingly strange goings on around the house, with inanimate objects moving by themselves, and Hunter and the family dog fixated by something in the corner of the bedroom that only they can see.
In many respects it’s the same movie as the first, just done less effectively. The manifestations of malevolent force are far more physical in nature, with cupboards flying open and people being thrown about. But the overriding condition is LOUD, and this is what really cheapens PA2.
Where the original used suggestion and shadow to instil slow creeping dread by making you think you could see monsters in every corner, this simply clatters you around the head with thunderous noises every 10 minutes or so.
While this might instinctively provoke a jump the first time it happens, it soon becomes terrifically boring. In its defence, the overlap with the first film is clever when it comes, although the setup for a third entry is irritating. But, as feared, the rash of imitators in the wake of Paranormal Activity just don’t seem to know what made the original and best tick.