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'Paranormal Activity 2' utilizes small budget, delivers biggest scares of the year

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Paranormal Activity 2 proves that not all sequels suck, and Paranormal Activity 2 photo courtesy of Paramount.delivers an unexpectedly well-crafted, frightening haunted house flick.

Even with only a splattering of blood and a nonexistent music score, Paranormal Activity 2 will still scare the crap out of you. Taking a big cue from the original film in terms of overall style and structure, this amped up sequel offers nothing new but still manages to deliver some big scares. This may be a cash in, but it’s a clever, well-orchestrated effective cash in.

One of the first thing this clever sequel establishes is the use of multiple security cameras, established after the family introduced at the beginning of the film gets ransacked while they are gone. Because the place very large, the father opts for several security cameras to alleviate his wife’s trepidations.

Soon after the family is introduced, the movie starts to tie in with its predecessor. The grown woman is revealed as Katie’s sister, the victimized woman in the first film. It also becomes clear that these events are paralleling Katie’s haunt, as both occur simultaneously.

Similar to the original, odd happenings start to increase slowly. Doors shut without wind, secure pots and pans drop without reason, and the couple’s newborn baby wakes up screaming during the late night hours. This activity immediately alarms the housekeeper, who attempts to ward off the spirits but is soon deemed loony and fired. Meanwhile, their teenage daughter starts to experience similar chilling experiences, at one point literally being accosted while babysitting her baby brother.

Everyone tries to remain calm until Katie’s sister receives several nasty encounters with the spirit, which seems to be the same entity that terrorized the newlyweds in the first film. As the tension mounts and evil strengthens, the family must figure out a way to escape alive before the demon destroys them all.

When Paramount struck gold a year ago with Paranormal Activity, sequel talk began circulating. When the inevitable announcement came, Paramount vowed that they would not attempt to take the concept in a new direction, but rather build on what made that film so scary. While many were skeptical on all fronts, the studio has stayed true to their word. Paranormal Activity 2 takes everything that was scary about the first film, and either recreates it or makes the horror more effective. Director Tod Williams builds a rattling sense of tension, even more so than the original, which took too much time to deliver the goods. The jump scares are expertly placed, and decision to include multiple security cameras is ingeniously clever.

Paranormal Activity 2 comes so shockingly close to outdoing last years breakout hit that it’s a shame the movie botches the job in the last few minutes. Even the revelation of a third act twist has potential, but the film squanders that, veering into disappointing slasher territory. That said, Paranormal Activity 2 is still one scary fun ride that’s much better than anyone could have expected. This franchise just might be the Poltergeist of the YouTube generation.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

Photo credit: Paramount