Katrina Rey and her husband Daniel plus stepdaughter Ali, baby Hunter and a dog are freaked out by a mystery break-in and instal spy cameras. Katrina worries that the subsequent haunting may be connected with childhood incidents involving her sister
This follows exactly the sequel formula advanced by Randy the Film Geek in Scream 2 – it has more and bigger scare moments (cumulatively less effective), more characters (ie: more potential victims!) and much more plot, which also serves to fill in things about the backstory that went unsuspected in the first film. But it still tells the same jokes.
Daringly, new director Tod Williams and screenwriter Michael R. Perry (replacing Oren Peli, who scores a producer credit but is off making Area 51) don’t pick up from the well-remembered jump at the end of Paranormal Activity. Instead, the film rolls back to sixty days earlier, and moves into the spacious house of an obviously well-off family who are showing some cracks. When the familiar actors/characters – Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat – from the first film turn up cheerily to splash in the pool, it is revealed that Katrina, the new lead character, is the sister of the woman who is (spoiler for Paranormal Activity!) doomed to become possessed by a demon.
All the expected phenomena take place – poltergeists pester (including one good shock in broad daylight), doors open and close by themselves, shadows hover, a sensitive dog is targeted and characters are dragged by unseen presences. The schtick still works, especially when static shots of empty rooms are held so long that your eye wanders all over the frame looking for the intruder or the movement. With a larger family, there’s room for more character development: including arcs for a teenage girl who wonders if it’s the spirit of her dead mother, a cliché Latina maid who waves exorcism tapers at every opportunity and a father who clings to rationalism for so long he seems cracked. There’s even a canny trick to bolt this plot onto the first film, taking into account the way Katie and Micah didn’t mention all this happening just before they got haunted, and allowing for a sketch of true sequel in a coda.
Given that this is the sort of project greenlit on the strength of the opening weekend numbers of the original rather than because the filmmakers had a burning desire to tell this story, its not a bad job. But only time and next Halloween - will reveal