After experiencing what they think are a series of break-ins, a family sets up security cameras around their home, only to realise that the events unfolding before them are more sinister than they seem. 

Doubly creepy and just as good as the first.

Lightning comes awfully close to striking twice in Tod Williams' Paranormal Activity 2, a worthy follow-up to last years blockbuster no-budgeter. Once again exploiting the familiarity of a suburban setting and the first-person involvement that home-vidcam/CCTV immediately invokes, this second installment furthers the established mythology with some tight scripting and patient storytelling. The smart execution and downright scariness of the installments to date, strengthens the potential for subsequent sequels to form one of the better horror franchise of recent memory.

The full-circle 'shock-umentary' concept extends to Paramount Pictures' involvement; the studio eschews all but its logo at the start of the film, choosing instead to give thanks to the family of the deceased and the local police for allowing it 'to use the footage you are about to see' (a similar series of slides rounds out the credit-free film).

As with PA1, the protagonists are established as the most average of young families – new mum, goofy good-guy dad, teenage daughter Ali and baby boy Hunter. In the young child's first year, their suburban dream home is targeted by what seems to be a hit-&-run home break-in, though the only item stolen is a necklace that was a gift from the mum's sister, Katie (Katie Featherstone) – the very same Katie whose terror was so effectively documented in Oren Peli's first film (Peli returns as co-scripter for the sequel).

Newly installed security cameras capture disturbing images as the family begins to experience increased occurrences of the unexplainable; very soon, events that reflect the sinister goings-on from the first film begin to overwhelm them. Further plot details would constitute spoilers and do the film a disservice, as the cleverly-constructed timeline that the movie employs is crucial to one's enjoyment of the film; suffice to say, it is convincingly integrated into the events of the first film.

Williams hasn't made a film since the one-two indy-sector punch of The Adventures of Sebastian Cole (1998) and Door in the Floor (2004), and his involvement in a film like Paranormal Activity 2 seems almost as incongruous as that of slick Hollywood power-producer, Akiva Goldsman (Oscar winner for his A Beautiful Mind script and responsible for such overbearing summer-fodder as The Da Vinci Code, Hancock and I Am Legend). But the matching of the pair with the bare-bones concept gives the sequel just enough extra cinematic oomph to appease newcomers to the franchise while still maintaining the goodwill that returning fans hold in store. If the added slickness and occasionally too-real-to-be-real acting takes one out of the premise momentarily, the inherent creepiness and a half-dozen solid jump-in-your-seat moments bring audiences back with jarring effectiveness.

Williams, Goldman and Peli's decision to patiently establish character will wear thin with some – it is a good 40 minutes into the film before the really scary stuff starts to kick-in. But in choosing not to cheaply cash-in on the chilling memories that the first film engenders and rather, to let the drama unfold with style and confidence, the creative team has achieved that increasingly rare example of American movie storytelling – a sequel that is damn-near as good as its predecessor.


1 hour 31 min
In Cinemas 21 October 2010,
Thu, 02/24/2011 - 11