That damned dogged demon tears another suburban dwelling apart from the inside out in Paranormal Activity 2.
3 parts prequel, 1 part sequel, this is a film smart enough not to stray far from the structure of its surprise hit predecessor, yet under the direction of Tod Williams (responsible for the underrated The Door in the Floor), Paranormal Activity 2 features a better use of eerie restraint, the searing slow burn of the first tweaked into a much tighter tale of demonic possession in the suburbs.
How it begins is both light and tragic at the same time, as parents Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Daniel (Brian Boland) welcome into their home new born son Hunter.
Yet with their new treasure quickly follows trouble, as pesky goings on in their house forces Daniel to install security cameras to catch who is terrorizing his brood.
What he doesn’t know is that both his wife Kristi and her sister Katie (yep, that Katie from the first Paranormal Activity) have a history with the supernatural, especially one demonic presence who won’t give up until it claims its prize.
Shot with a much bigger budget (yet still peanuts compared to the usual), Williams successfully upgrades the mockumentary stylings of the first through the use of several cameras as opposed to the one, effectively blending CCTV footage with hand held cam to capture the banality of family life, and the chaos their unwelcome intruder unleashes.
Knowing full well the power of anticipation and the effect of a well placed thud, Williams structures some superbly choreographed sequences wracked with tension, and featuring some nifty sound and special effects, including one jarring sequence which takes a memorable moment from the first movie and turns it up to 11.
Also similar are the traits of its characters. There is the man of the house, sceptical of anything remotely supernatural to the point of firing his sons’ religious nanny for trying to ward off the evil spirits; a curious teen who dabbles with an Ouija board and surfs the net for additional info, (giving more hints to the origins of this possession); and the potential possessee, who slowly unravels from the unwanted attention.
Hell, even Katie and Micah (of the first movie) make an appearance.
Yet this is what makes Paranormal Activity 2 such a compelling watch. The treatment of its story as a continuation of a profoundly thrilling experience rather than a standalone film, places more empathy on the tragedy which has befallen these unfortunate souls, an element sorely lacking in our torture porn times.
Paranormal Activity 2 may not have the same element of surprise the original had to its advantage, but it still seeps under your skin with the same chilling intimacy.