The discovery of a stash of old VHS tapes rings no bells for the older Katie and Kristi, who are seen briefly in March 2005, before these ‘found footage’ home movies catapult us back to their childhood in Carlsbad, California in 1988. Kristi has an imaginary friend called Toby, and there are the usual unexplained nocturnal noises and rattling of pots and pans in the kitchen. This prompts the girls’ curious father to rig up surveillance cameras in the girls’ bedroom, the adults’ bedroom and the open plan kitchen/living room. This last is rigged to a customised fan, allowing a teasingly slow 180-degree sweep of the whole downstairs area.
Only after the requirements of the franchise have been served by the expected noises off and our nervous combing of the fuzzy frame hints of demonic activity, does the film enter fresh territory. Fleeing from their haunted home, the family take refuge at the girls’ grandmother’s house; but the malignant entities are not be denied. The last third of the movie is the scariest, though even it relies on visual and aural devices with which we have become a little too familiar. Most bizarrely, the film starts with the girls’ mother empahasising the heavy, cumbersome nature of the analogue recording equipment and ends with their mother's boyfriend filming the life- and soul-threatening events with a hand-held camera. On balance, depite its myriad contrivances and credibility-stretching lacunae, this is truer to the spirit of the frightening original than last year’s disappointing sequel.