"Paranormal Activity 2" is exactly the right sequel to the original Orin Peli horror phenomenon. It takes the original film's rules and order and expands that universe. It introduces a whole set of new characters while not forgetting its original characters. While the film is billed as a sequel it isn't necessarily a sequel or a prequel, but both. Imagine "Paranormal Activity 2" is a hug and it has come up to Paranormal Activity and wrapped its arms around it. That is the easiest way to describe how the two films tie together without spoiling much of the film. I have to say I was flabbergasted by how well screenwriters Michael R. Perry, Christopher B. Landon and Tom Pabst were able to bring the two films together. Absolutely fabulous work.
Just like its predecessor, "Paranormal Activity 2" is scary. The severity of how scary it actually is, is left open to interpretation. The movie doesn't actually scare me. Now let me define scare. I mean I'm not walking away from either Paranormal Activity film affected. I could go to bed just find after watching. One stipulation, I am not all that frightened by the idea of ghosts. Sure it is a scary concept and I would probably be scared if one were in my presence but just watching a movie about a ghost or in these film's case, a demon, I am not walking away frightened or losing sleep. The Tod Williams directed sequel is however tense and features a number of moments that really had me going.
When talking about being scared I look at the Paranormal Activity films and think more of tension than fear. These films thrive off of the night-by-night countdown. If you've seen the original you know what I mean, each evening the film sets up a typescript of "Night One," "Night Two," etc. Each time these title cards come on screen it alerts the audience in a very simple way, get ready something scary could happen. Its all about the build up. Creating that tension. A lot of the time there is no pay-off, but each time the title comes up you can feel the entire theater bear down. The theater actually begin to self regulate itself. You can hear audience members getting nervous or others shushing people who are making noise. I loved this aspect in the first film and the sequel does a stellar job of repeating the process without becoming too predictable.
One aspect of "Paranormal Activity 2" that I find myself conflicted about is the pacing. This film seems to suffer from too many lulls. The movie furthermore has its scares way more spaced out that than the original. Some of this I assume is intentional in order to throw the viewer off and I appreciate that, but on the other hand, the end result is not as cohesive. More simply, the movie just sputters. Now the difference is the payoff. "Paranormal Activity 2" builds and builds until the third act and then it comes at you like a freight truck. Scare after jaw dropping scare. There is something shout inducing scares and some serious evil that takes place on screen in the final 30 minutes of the 91 minute feature. Truly badass cinema!
One area where "Paranormal Activity 2" up sells the original is acting and cast. I was far more vested in this family than I ever was in Katie and Micah. The entire Rey family is enjoyable to watch on screen. Brian Boland is solid as the father Dan and Sprague Grayden does a notable job as the mother. Also I couldn't forget their nanny/housekeeper Martine played by Vivis Cortez. Martine has some of the best scenes and comic relief within the film. Which reminds me, for two films that really do hunker down with tension and scares, they do a flawless job of incorporating comic relief to alleviate the tension here and there.
A big difference between the original and its sequel that I tremendously enjoyed was growing the story from just a couple to a full family. They took the fear off of the couple sleeping at night and shifted it to a baby alone in his crib. For parents this angle to the sequel may be tough to handle. Their are some serious moments that will have you covering your mouth and possibly your eyes in fear of what may happen to little Hunter Rey.
Overall "Paranormal Activity 2" is a awesome sequel. It took the original story developed it and expanded it in a way I didn't see coming. they also expanded it in a way that I totally embrace. I do have to say although, one big turn off is its lasting ability. It is a movie that after viewing, I'm done with. More specifically its not a movie I'd jump to see again or probably ever purchase. It is a fun film that delivers well while watching, but it doesn't have anything that sticks with me. That said, I'm ready for more. This series has at least one more great film in its fullest potential and I'll be there opening day to see it unfold.