“Hey! Who left the front door open?”
Sequels are funny things. They’re almost uniformly made for the money, even the good ones. They’re also rigidly formulaic. The general rule of thumb is ‘Whatever worked in the first film, do it again.’. It’s the law of diminishing returns. Really about the only thing a film can do is improve the formula, not change it. So what does Paranormal Activity 2 do? Well first off it’s a better film. Of course it doesn’t change what worked about the original film (If you accept the original film ‘worked’ at all) but it tightens it up, and doesn’t quite fall prey to the same mistakes. Intriguingly the film’s hook is that it serves as both a prequel and sequel to the original film, and while it’ll often repeat the same types of scares, it’s afforded the chance to expand the mythology above ‘Annoying couple are terrorised by demon’. In my review for the original film I wrote about how the scares were rote, just going through the same motions again and again. In that film it left me cold, though this time I admit it worked a lot better. Maybe it’s because the stakes have been upped, now we know just what’s possible.
Of course as always I’m limited in just what to spoil. There’s nothing here that isn’t in the first film, and the ending manages to dovetail around to the first film in a pretty neat way. But if you saw the first one then you know what you’re getting here. It’s not a re-imagining, but it is a tightening of what worked the first time.