Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Rating: D+

Dir: Tod Williams
Star: Sprague Grayden, Molly Ephraim, Brian Boland, Katie Featherston

How does the saying go: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”? The original was the little movie that could, succeeding despite – or because of – its limitations. This attempt to re-capture the magic doesn’t work, because there are too few genuinely scary moments. When I tell you that the most hair-raising involves a pool vacuum lifting itself out of the pool, you’ll get an idea of the issues here – it’d have been great if they’d woken up to find it sitting at the foot of their bed or something. I am now working on my script for Night of the Pool Cleaners, coming soon to a theater near you. Anyway…

It’s effectively a prequel to the original, centering on Kristi (Grayden), sister of the focus in the original. She and her husband Dan (Boland) have their house apparently burgled, and install security cameras throughout. This, however, is merely the start of another campaign of escalating activity, apparently centreing on their toddler son. Their daughter Ali (Ephraim) begins to suspect that this may be the result of a deal with the devil generations before, with Satan keen to cash in his pay-check and take the soul of the first-born male since then. As with the original, this starts with largely uninteresting video footage of not much happening. Unlike the original, that’s mostly where it stays, trying (and failing) to catch lightning in a bottle. At least Blair Witch 2, for all its failings, had some original ideas [and Michael Westen].

It would still probably have passed muster, except for the final ten minutes, which topples over from “things go bump in the night” into “The president’s daughter from season seven of 24 channels Linda Blair.” This doesn’t even work as a prequel, because the events that unfold would unquestionably have affected how people behaved in the first film: that doesn’t happen at all. The only up-tick is a more logical explanation for the video footage, which doesn’t require any of the characters to run around with a camcorder glued to their eyeball. Maybe we should have watched this on a dark November night, rather than a sunny August afternoon.