A version of this review appeared in The Age, October 28, 2010.
Oren Peli's lo-fi Paranormal Activity was one of the smartest horror films of recent years – at once a traditional haunted house story, a comment on the YouTube era of image-making, and an X-ray of a troubled relationship. With a hit on their hands, Paramount Pictures have rushed out a quickie sequel by a different creative team, writer Michael R. Perry and director Tod Williams (Peli is credited as a producer).
Like its predecessor, Paranormal Activity 2 masquerades as a series of home movies shot by the characters, alternating between routine daytime squabbles and scary incidents after dark. Where the first film focused on a young couple, this time round a entire suburban family is under attack: the camera-wielding Daniel (Brian Boland) is a cranky sceptic, while his wife (Sprague Grayden) and teenage daughter (Molly Ephraim) seem more willing to accept the possibility of a supernatural presence in their lives.
But the more Perry and Williams dilute the minimalism of the original premise, the more Paranormal Activity 2 loses thematic focus and dramatic power. Ultimately, the film has little to offer apart from a few physical shocks involving oddly-behaved household objects, a novelty that soon wears off.