“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.
Those seeking answers to the questions left dangling last year will get some satisfaction. Those hoping to be blown away all over again by another cult horror sensation will not. All the same, you’ll be double-checking the doors when you get home.