Fans of the first "Paranormal Activity" will definitely like the sequel. Paramount Picture's "Paranormal Activity 2" offers many of the same chills and thrills that made the first film so successful as well as a few terrifying new twists to keep the audience on edge.
"Paranormal Activity 2," starring Katie Featherston, Micha Sloat, Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, and Molly Ephraim, opens at the home of Katie’s sister Kristi who shares the mansion with her teenage step-daughter Ali, husband Dan, and their infant son Tyler. Katie, of course, is the demon-haunted woman from the first film. A mysterious break-in at the beginning of the movie motivates the family to install video cameras throughout the home and it is through these cameras, as well as handheld cameras used by the family, that the audience is able to witness the odd events plaguing the household.
Unlike the first film, the evil spirit in "Paranormal Activity 2" centers around an infant rather than a young woman, a fact which is both intriguing and disturbing. The baby, Hunter, is just over a year old and is unable to vocalize or fully understand the things he sees, hears, and experiences (like crib levitations). With a father who refuses to acknowledge the strange events and a mother who refuses to talk about them, it’s up to the boy’s half-sister, Ali, to discover why the demon is so interested in the child.
Though it may seem strange considering how the first "Paranormal Activity" ended, Katie appears in the sequel several times and viewers soon learn that the events in Paranormal Activity 2 take place before, concurrently, and after the events in the first film. In this way "Paranormal Activity 2," is both a prequel and sequel and producers do a good job connecting the first film with the second. The audience also learns a few unsettling details about Katie and Kristi’s family and childhood experiences which helps to explain why the sisters react to the paranormal activity the way they do (like staying in the house after an evil spirit drags you down the stairs! Who does that?).
One big disadvantage to "Paranormal Activity 2" is its startling similarity to the first. With a few notable exceptions, "Paranormal Activity 2" is essentially "Paranormal Activity" with a couple of extra characters. The film opens the same way, a car pulling into the driveway while a member of the household films the arrival. There’s also the gradual build up of freaky occurrences, a false alarm or two, mysterious thumps and thuds, a protective male figure who refuses to believe the truth until it’s too late, a Ouija board, demon research, an invisible assailant, a catatonic stupor, the similarities go on and on. "Paranormal Activity 2" relies on the tried and true formula of the first film and while the original scare tactics are still frightening, they just aren’t as effective the second time around. Thankfully, there are enough new elements to the film (a dog who senses evil when humans cannot, strange events in the nursery, a mysterious basement) to save the movie from being a boring remake.
Despite the overwhelming similarities to the first flick, "Paranormal Activity 2" is still an unsettling film, the kind of movie that will keep you awake at night wondering if that noise in the kitchen is the cat or something more sinister. For this reason alone, the film is worth viewing. Though I can’t give away the ending for obvious reasons, let’s just say a "Paranormal Activity 3" is entirely possible, and if so, I’ll be in theater on opening weekend!