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<i>Paranormal Activity 2</i>: Not Only Scarier, It Makes the Original Better

You would think that Paranormal Activity 2 would be less scary than the first one, since we've seen all of the home-movie format's tricks, and the sequel takes place in a house full of people, including a baby and a guard dog. Well, you'd be wrong, because PA2 somehow manages to be more frightening, even as it builds on the first film's minimal mythology. Yes, it repeats a few scares from the first movie, and has enough generic scares in it that could be from any horror movie, but the fact remains that they're still pants-pissingly delivered. I'm not going to say that seeing it alone in a small, nearly empty budget theater in the back of a discount store wouldn't help, but I'll assume it was just as scary for those in stadium seating.

The movie follows Kristi, sister of the first film's Katie, as she brings her newborn son home to the house she shares with her husband, stepdaughter and maid/nanny. Since the action takes place long before the events of the first movie (although they overlap at the end), Katie and Micah are both present as they visit the family and learn about how awesome home video cameras can be. But when Kristi's entire house is vandalized, they install security cameras in every room, which then proceed to document every moment of the next several weeks. If the tapes were checked every morning, and not just after something obvious happened, then the movie would escalate much faster than it does, but even with only occasional viewings, it is quickly realized that something is in the house, and it's not friendly. Although just looking at their skittish German shepherd and their should have told them that.

Like the first movie, these people live in the Internet Age, so they do all of their research about ghosts and demons on the Web, and find out some incredibly useful facts. But, unlike the first film, they never call in any professionals, and they even fire their knowledgeable housekeeper, which means they make some classic blunders, like using a Ouija board, stepping out of the house without their housekeys and not getting concerned when a bird flies into a window and dies. Haven't these people ever watched Lost?

One complaint? Like Iron Man 2 and its helmet toss, or Predators and its multiple laser sights, the trailers teased us with scenes that weren't in the film. The teaser in particular used a scene of Katie standing spookily in the nursery doorway, and the full trailer showed baby Hunter being levitating upright in his crib and then crawling in the middle of the road. Don't look for these shots, because they aren't there, although Hunter is at one point clumsily taken from the crib by the demon, and is generally such a focus of the demon's attention (a key plot element) that it's plenty scary, especially for parents of young children. If you don't like seeing/hearing animals get hurt, you'll have similar trouble, because the dog is often the only thing between the demon and the baby, and as such must eventually be dealt with. Also, if children's toys moving on their own scares the hell out of you, despite its use in literally dozens of movies, that happens, as well.

While the first movie ended on a generic enough note that I would have been fine without a sequel (although the alternate, more final ending would have wrapped things up with a bloody little bow), PA2 actually shows us why the first movie happened, as well as what happened immediately afterwards, and I now absolutely need to know what happens next. I'm not sure how they'd be able to show it within the framework of the franchise's trademark style, and I'd hate to see it clumsily shoehorned in, but I hope they figure out a way to make PA3 work. Because the way the new movie ends has me feeling such a mishmash of emotions -- hatred of humans, love of demons -- that I'm curious to see how my feelings, as well as the plot, play out.

Did you see Paranormal Activity 2? Let us know what you thought below, then see other little movies that became big franchises!

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