The original Paranormal Activity owed much of its success to the realistic mystique suggested by its reality-TV aesthetic. It was the centre of the film’s viral marketing campaign and the reason why word spread amongst filmgoers.

Regardless of the film’s quality, there was something fresh and intriguing about a film fuelled by classic horror thrills as opposed to the gallons of flesh and blood spewed in every Saw film. Despite their differences, both franchises share the same cold ambivalence towards their victims. A disregard for human life is usually prevalent in classic horror affairs.

The second Paranormal Activity is fully aware of the obstacles that it faces. The novelty of the found footage gimmick won’t have the same effect as its predecessor; plus, the mystery is now out in the open. So instead of going the Saw route by rehashing the old story, the film circles back to the events that led to the first Paranormal Activity, making it technically a prequel.

It turns out that Katie (Featherston), the tormented girlfriend in the first film, had a sister named Kristi (Grayden). Kristi is blissfully married and has just given birth to a little boy. She’s living peacefully with her husband and his daughter from a former marriage until weird things begin to happen. Doors shut all by themselves, lights turn on and off with no one around, and things mysteriously move around the house.

Like the first film, these events are never fully understood. However, this time, Paranormal Activity 2 supplies us with a narrow mythology that explains the hunter demons and their motives. It’s an added bonus to the main attraction, which is wisely given the most attention. The jump-out-of-your-seat scares are still there, and they are more intense and frightening.

Paranormal Activity 2 manages to recreate and capture the exact formula that made the original a surprise hit. It’s a more competent piece of filmmaking; and at least, the film avoids falling into the trap of merely recycling the original. By expanding the mythology and toning down the gimmickry, Paranormal Activity 2 serves as an effective prequel, but it also lacks the freshness of its predecessor.