Paranormal Activity, the "found footage" format used throughout had both positive and negative outcomes. It added an element of reality that traditional Hollywood style horror at times can't manage, as well as giving the film a low-budget indie charm which was, for the vast majority of the film, entirely genuine. Paranormal Activity 2 employed the same style and techniques, but in order for it to come across as a worthwhile sequel, it needed to be more than just a retread of the same ground covered in the original.
Paranormal Activity 2 is in fact a prequel-sequel hybrid, relating events happening both before and after those seen in the first film. The film focuses on married couple Kristi and Dan Rey (Sprague Grayden and Brian Boland) and their family, Dan's teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim) from a previous marriage, and the couple's baby son Hunter. Kristi is the sister of Katie (Katie Featherstone) from the first film, and both Katie and her partner Micah (Micah Sloat) make appearances here. The film focuses on strange supernatural occurrences happening in the Reys' home a few months before those seen happening to Katie and Micah in the original film.
Unfortunately, Paranormal Activity 2 magnifies the problems seen in Paranormal Activity, as well as displaying a few of its own. The style is very similar, although the way in which security cameras are installed to capture the goings on in the house feels more contrived than Micah's camcorder of the original film. There is evidence that the film makers realised the less compelling nature of the daytime sequences of Paranormal Activity, as those segments are regularly much briefer, allowing the night time activity - much more interesting in the first film - to come along more regularly.
However, the problem here is that even the night time "footage" is too often really quite dull. In fact, it takes around an hour - two thirds of the film's total running time - for anything genuinely scary to happen. The film just ticks over without anything meaningful to say, or even giving much of a clue as to why the activity might be happening. Daughter Ali seemingly stumbles across a couple of clues as to what they are experiencing and why, but then does nothing with them. Katie provides the most interesting reaction to what is going on, but isn't in the film enough to have much of an effect.
In and of themselves, none of the characters here are particularly interesting. Dan and Kristi are decidedly ordinary; Ali is a one-dimensional teenage girl, complete with paper-thin boyfriend Brad (Seth Ginsburg); Viviz Cortez as housekeeper and nanny Martine looks to offer a more interesting perspective in the film, but is removed from proceedings far too early to make an impact.
Whilst the final twenty minutes or so of the film do manage to produce some creepy moments and palpable scares, ultimately this is far too little too late. The connection to the events of the first film feels rushed, and the final scenes feel tacked on which is especially frustrating as they are clearly intended to not only tie up the events of this film and the last, but also lead the franchise into further installments. Whilst Paranormal Activity 2 isn't awful, it has far too many problems and generates far too little of interest to be able to truly recommend it.