Paranormal Activity 2 | Horror | rated R (L,V) | starring Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat | 1:31 mins

After the birth of their first son and a burglary that leaves their house in shambles, a family – including Kristi, the sister of Paranormal Activity’s Katie (Katie Featherston), her husband Dan and stepdaughter Ally – set up survaillance cameras around the house. What they capture is an increasingly violent spiritual presence. Soon Kristi and Ally find themselves fighting skeptical Dan and this unseen demonic force for the life of their infant child Hunter.

You either like Paranormal Activity and it’s bare-bones style of unseen supernatural horror and hidden camera voyeurism or you don’t.  I for one found the first film refreshing and was even more tickled by this one. Where the first film built well to one or two really good scares, Paranormal Activity 2 is spiked with several great ones along the way. Real jump-out-of-your seat scares without any “it was just the cat” false alarm nonsense. I got the same shiver up my spine I got with the first film, but I actually had more fun with this one. I delighted in anticipation of each scare. Instead of squirming at some torture porn, Paranormal 2 brings spooky ghost house fun back to horror. Now this is what it’s all about.

It actually has the more believable set up and execution of the hand-held camera movies. Instead of a script that pathetically tries to contrive scenarios for someone to not put down a camera, it’s premise is built around events that someone would logically be taping. We first meet our family as they bring infant Hunter home from the hospital. Their baby, burglary damage and the rest of the film gives way to security cameras. Security cameras that loop around the house and sends the eye scanning the frame for something out of place as part of this franchise’s signiture on-screen parlor tricks.

In the sequel tradition, 2 is bigger than the first. The haunted house residents have gone from 2 to 4, plus a dog. And the house has gotten bigger. With more corners for the eye to scower and the movie to cause it’s brand of mischief in. Those that thought the first film was a lot of nothing happening aren’t going to be turned by 2. It still has a bit of a wind-up, lingering on morning breakfasts over the island or someone falling asleep on the couch. Maybe it’s the voyeur in me, but I found the people watching interesting. The everyday banality of late night trips to the kitchen mixed with supernatural shows of agression worked for me.

The one thing that really doesn’t work: Dan, the dad. It’s a terrible character realized in a terrible performance. An I’m-someone’s-friend-and-the-real-actor-bowed-out-to-late-to-recast kind of performance. Dan is the typical alpha dad whose setting defaults to My Wife and Daughter Are Crazy and denies that anything is going on despite video in front of his face to the contrary. It’s always just the wind for guys like Dan and Micah. Dan’s late film reading of “She tried to warn me but I didn’t listen” is so steeped in horror movie cliche it is unintentionally hilarious. And look out when this guy gets “tough”. Dan is insufferable.

Paranormal Activity 2 is a gift-wrapped Halloween present to fans of the first film. It’s a bigger sequel that doesn’t stray from the humble technique of the first film and boasts a more solid and thought-out story, one that doubles back and fills in a few key scenes from the first film that at the time felt randomly thrown out there. Even if it doesn’t end on a similar exclamation point the first film did. I like this movie’s horror choir made of creeking walls, opening doors and banging footsteps. A very fun ride in it’s own right and an even better sequel.