The parched Los Angeles subdivision where aspiring veterinarian Kelly (Ashley Greene) and home-theater installer Ben (Sebastian Stan) live is ringed by desert scrub, strip malls and high-tension power lines. If that's not already hell, it's close enough for something to have slipped through from the other side -- and now their house in that near-empty pop-up suburb suffers electrical surges, moldy decay, strange background voices and something making pretzels out of wooden hangers and leaving claw marks on the walls.
If all that sounds like familiar paranormal activity -- or "Paranormal Activity" -- then this first feature by writer-director Todd Lincoln won't take you anyplace new. Certainly if you're an aficionado of Japanese horror films like the influential "Ring" (1998) and "Ju-on: The Grudge" (2002), which clearly imprinted on Lincoln like they have on other filmmakers, you may be downright bored. But for casual viewers desiring a few scares, some suspense and a sustained sense of dread and malevolence, you could do worse.
The apparition in question first emerges during Ben's college years, when Ben, girlfriend Lydia (Julianna Guill) and buddy Patrick (Tom Felton) called forth something, with dire repercussions. Now, Ben has moved on, but Patrick is still experimenting -- and the entity has grown stronger and nastier. In the film's biggest nod to Japanese horror, it's not the house that's haunted, as per usual in Western ghost stories -- it's Ben and, by extension, Kelly. So: Running out of the house? Doesn't help so much.
Not helping the movie so much is such occasionally hackneyed dialogue as "In my own way, I was trying to protect you" and "We're safe now." On the plus side, the camera lingers on beautiful "Twilight" star Greene, within the confines of a PG-13 rating -- although one extended scene with her wearing only lingerie does go on long enough to become kind of funny.