Paranormal Activity 2 

Granted, with the first film being more or less "just all right," incoming director Tod Williams (who helmed the underrated John Irving adaptation "The Door in the Floor") didn't have to jump very high to clear the bar set by Oren Peli, but he jumped even higher than that.

This sequel is actually a prequel, detailing the unexplained goings-on in an entirely different house, yet within the same family, as our new heroine, Kristi (Sprague Grayden), is sister to the original's Katie (Katie Featherston, who reprises her role). The videotaping here begins when Kristi and hubby Daniel (Brian Boland) return from the hospital with their infant son, Hunter.

What transpires is essentially more of the same, but amplified. With double the residents, there's more of interest to be found, and — let's face it — they're easily likable compared to part one's Micha (Micah Sloat, also appearing briefly). Boland's character turns douchebag when the freaky stuff starts going down, but it's hard to hate Kristi, her stepdaughter (Molly Ephraim), Hunter or, heck, even the family dog.

More cameras mean more suspense, too. Whereas the original was confined to Micha's handheld model, we not only get camcorder footage, but the perspective of several security cameras set up both inside and outside the home. The opportunity for some of what the title promises could come from any one of the sources, and as night falls, you'll find your eyes darting about all the corners of the static screens, looking for the first sight of ghostly shenanigans.

As far as scares go, even an immune horror vet as myself must admit the movie has one really good one in store. For others, that number is multiplied, judging by the number of times my wife dug her nails into my forearm as we watched from the comfort of our couch. Its ending is better, too, even if it directly screams, "See you next Halloween with part 3, y'all!" You won't take it as a cheap out as much as you will something to plug into your iCal.

The DVD's unrated director's cut adds seven minutes to the 91-minute running time, and for once, I don't think any of them deserved to be cut. In fact, I'd say the same for all four minutes of the deleted scenes in the extras, in particular the part where Kristi and Daniel find their baby crawling in the middle of the street in the middle of the night. For anyone who's a parent, that's harrowing, nightmarish stuff. —Rod Lott

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