The off-and-on horror movie watching spree continues. I watched Paranormal Activity some years ago with Alex, and it was solid. I was watching for the moments where something would start moving closely enough none of it had much success at surprise scares, but it had its strong points. The sequel actually takes place about two months before the first movie, as Kristi (the sister of Katie from the first one, and Katie and her idiot boyfriend Micah appear here as well) and Daniel celebrate the birth of their first son.
Then things start moving around, there are noises, their older, possibly Latin American housekeeper/nanny Martine keeps burning sage in the house, the dog keeps flipping out. You know, the usual stuff. An early incident, where practically everything in the house was tossed around, led Daniel to have a lot of security cameras set around the house, and so that's how we see a lot of the film. The rest is through handheld cameras character have for various reasons. They're documenting the child's early life, Daniel's teenage daughter from an earlier relationship, Ali, starts carrying one because what's happening around the house is freaking her out.
I guess the subsequent films continue to go back in time and address why this presence is around, but through this film and the first one, you only really know that it seems fixated on either Kristi or Katie, but you aren't sure why, or what can be done about it. Martine knows a way to get it off Kristi's back, but this ultimately accomplishes nothing. It diverts the threat for a time, but it really only succeeds in getting more people killed. This is probably isn't accurate, but it's what I think Lovecraft stories are a bit like: Character confronted with something they can't really fight, that's pursuing goals they don't understand, and which tends to break all the ideas they have about how things are supposed to be.
Of course, Dan's response to all the strange happenings is to insist there is some logical explanation, which for him is apparently, "blame my teenage daughter and her mop-topped boyfriend". When we watched The Conjuring, we all appreciated the fact that the husband didn't try to dismiss his wife's concerns, and supported her seeking outside assistance. By the time Dan gets on that track, it's way too late for anything other than ineffective damage control. At one point near the end, he literally leaves Ali alone with Kristi and the baby because he can't put off meeting with some guys from Portland any longer. This coming the morning after the dog had a "seizure". Brilliant work there, Dan. None of us felt terribly bad for him. I did feel really bad for Ali and the dog, Abby. Poor dog, just trying to protect that baby, and no one was helping it.
It's basically like the first one: You watch the screen, and wait to see something move that shouldn't be moving. Then you wait to see if someone reacts to it or if something else starts moving and they react to that. It's strength in being able to scare you comes from the fact that for me, at least, the characters I cared about were the ones most aware something was wrong, but least willing or able to just get away. And I didn't find it likely the presence would flinch at collateral damage.