“The more attention we pay to it, the worse it gets!” whispers terrified young mom Kristi (Sprague Grayden) in PA2, the inevitable sequel to the micro-budget word-of-mouth hit that made such a splash last year.
The ‘it’ she refers to isn’t the Saw franchise or The X Factor, but the same malignant spook that pestered Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston in Oren Peli’s original.
This time, though, it is after Kristi’s son Hunter, an adorable toddler whose well-appointed nursery becomes the focus for all sorts of inexplicable shenanigans in Tod Williams’ ( The Door In The Floor ) better-than-you’d-expect follow-up.
That Sloat and Featherston are part of its cast tips the wink early that what we’re actually watching is a prequel to Peli’s film.
That said, it might just as easily qualify as a remake, Williams using the same shock tactics, lengthy static shots and eerie night-vision visuals that creeped us out 11 months ago.
Returning home one day to a ransacked house, Kristi and older husband Daniel (Brian Boland) install a battery of CCTV cameras that become our timecoded eyes and ears.
Conveniently, they also get a camcorder that always seems to be on to shoot the scary stuff Big Brother can’t cover.
Not that there’s much of that in the movie’s dull first half, a mysteriously ambulant pool cleaning machine and a rogue saucepan being the only untoward elements for what feels like an age.
But around the midpoint, Williams springs his first big jack-in-the-box surprise, a welcome game-changer that cranks the story up a notch into a more rewarding strata of sustained hysteria.
It helps that there is more at stake this time around, Boland having a teenage daughter, a Mexican maid and a loyal Alsatian to look out for as well as his wife and tot.
Co-writers Michael R Perry, Christopher Landon and Tom Pabst, meanwhile, adeptly tap into a host of middle-class anxieties, among them the fear of home invasion and the nightmare of an unattended infant being home alone.
Armed with a significantly bigger budget than Peli’s paltry $15,000, Williams also makes judicious use of special effects in moments showing characters at the mercy of an irresistible invisible force.
In short, Activity 2 is no Book Of Shadows to its predecessor’s Blair Witch . But at root, it’s essentially a reprise that, in attempting to give its unseen antagonist a backstory and a motive, robs it of much of its chilling ambiguity.