Paranormal Activity 2: Not as good as the first

The prequel-sequel bookend of last year's studio ATM, Paranormal Activity 2 picks up with Kristi (Sprague Gratden), sister of the first film's Katie, bringing home her firstborn son. That the child is named Hunter should give a fairly good idea of the class of home it is, and the home itself is the movie's star, in absence of any competition; in the family videos that comprise the long setup of the movie, no one says anything interesting, nor is any performance allowed to go beyond the adequately realistic. When inexplicable little tremors begin shaking the house, the Hispanic help (who seemingly has seminary training) promptly diagnoses demons, but everyone else needs to see with their own eyes — which are everywhere, because narrative information is filtered through a six-camera home surveillance circuit and ever-ready camcorders. Where The Last Exorcism was sustained by artfully balanced skepticism and a feel for character, Paranormal 2, directed by Tod Williams, can hold an audience only with the understood promise of big jolts around the corner. And they come, as Hunter becomes the hunted. It's a nullity of a ghost story, whose idea of creating atmosphere is preparing a blank surface for soundtrack bumps-in-the-night to resound off.


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