It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Paranormal Activity 2" is an efficient delivery system for Gotcha! Moments, of which it has about 19. Audiences who want to be Gotchaed will enjoy it. A Gotcha! Moment is a moment when something is sudden, loud and scary. This can be as basic as the old It's Only a Cat cliché, or as abrupt as a character being hit by a bus.
PA2 starts slyly with pre-Gotcha! teasers, such as a door or a child's toy moving on its own. Then there are obscure off-screen rumbles, like a uneasy stomach. Then loud bangs. Then loud bangs with visible causes. Then all the doors in a room banging open at once. And eventually…well, you can see for yourself, because all the activity is captured by 24-hour security cameras.
The cameras, which function perfectly but never capture the Presence on the screen. For the house is indeed haunted by a ghost-like supernatural presence, I guess. I say "I guess" because there is a scene of a victim being dragged downstairs, and the entity doing the dragging is invisible. On the other hand, the movie ends with a strong suggestion that the malefactor was in fact a living human being. So would that be cheating? Hell yes.
But who cares? People go to "Paranormal Activity 2" with fond memories of the original film, which was low-tech and clever in the way it teased our eyes and expectations. It scared them. They want to be scared again. They will be. When there's a loud unexpected bang it will scare you. The structural task of the Gotcha! Movie is to separate the bangs so they continue to be unexpected.
Any form of separation will do. The characters include the Sloats (Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston), who are back from the first movie. But this story takes place in the home of her sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden), her husband, Daniel (Brian Boland), teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim), brand new baby Hunter, and his nanny, Martine (Vivis). Martine is ethnic, and we know what that means: She has an instinctive knowledge of ghosts, breaks out the magic incense at a moment's notice, and can't get anyone to listen to her.