Film Review: Paranormal Activity 2 echoes first film to spooky effect

Paranormal Activity 2★★★★by Shea Frazier

The first Paranormal Activity was the master of well-placed surprises, but one surprise audiences and critics never thought Paranormal Activity would pull off was a decent sequel.

Paranormal Activity 2 came as a shock to all. A tightly-controlled, tension-filled feast, this installment takes everything that made its predecessor successful, throws in a toddler and an endearing canine and proceeds to horrify everyone with two eyes and too much pride to close them.

The movie follows the Rey family, comprised of father, mother, stepdaughter, nanny and baby boy Hunter. About a year after the family happily brings Hunter home, a strange break-in leads the Reys to install security cameras throughout the house. Through these and a handheld camcorder, audiences get a prime view of that initial happiness's heart-twisting death when the family is mysteriously plagued by progressively worsening supernatural occurrences.

Set 60 days before the events of the first movie, Paranormal Activity 2 smoothly ties the films together, smartly weaving interesting layers into both narratives. Though the second movie could stand more-or-less on its own, nothing gives knowing audiences the shivers quite like being forced to watch Katie - possessed protagonist of the first Paranormal Activity - greet her sister Kristi and her new nephew.

Katie isn't the only throwback to the first film. Everything - from the filming style to the slow suspenseful build-up of psychologically oriented scares - is the same, but sleeker, better-paced and ultimately more terrifying.

Paranormal Activity 2 has no gore or pea soup-spitting girls. Its scares are subtle, playing on humans' fears of helplessness and of the unknown. This may not frighten fans of blood-fests like the Saw sequels or dismemberment-mad movies like Jeepers Creepers, but Paranormal Activity 2's chilling nature, superior acting and cruel premise is enough to make most others sleep, at least for one night, with the lights on.