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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Paranormal Activity 4

This is the only film coming out this week that I've seen, but that certainly doesn't make it the film of the week. I definitely intend to see Moonrise Kingdom soon after it releases so look out for a review of that, but for now here is yet another rubbish Paranormal Activity film.

Also up at Channel 24 

What it's about

It's been five years since the disappearance of Katie and Hunter and the events of the first Paranormal Activity film, but similarly strange things start happening to another suburban family after they start getting involved in the lives of their neighbours: a single mother and her young son.

What we thought

The first Paranormal Activity film was a perfectly decent, competently put together haunted house film that was made while the whole “found footage” gimmick was still relatively tolerable and, considering that it cleaned up at the box office, while costing next to nothing to make, it's hardly surprising that it was turned into a franchise. What was perhaps less expected though, was just how quickly the franchise crashed and burned with the frankly excruciatingly boring Paranormal Activity 2. The film was so bad in fact that I went out of my way to ignore the third instalment entirely. To be fair though, based on the apparent complete lack of references to it in Paranormal Activity 4, so did the people who made it.

The good news then, is that Paranormal Activity 4 is a gigantic improvement over Paranormal Activity 2 in that it's merely dull, tired and uninspired, rather than life-threateningly boring. That might not seem like much, I grant you, but there is a noticeable difference between a film that gently lulls you to sleep and one that brings you dangerously close to slitting your wrists.

More than that, while Paranormal Activity 2 had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, its second sequel may well actually work somewhat for people who haven't seen any of the previous films. It at least gestures towards something resembling a plot and the characters are at least somewhat less faceless than they were in part two. Plus, if you have no idea what to expect, you may well fall for the desperately cheap scares and occasional creepiness that Paranormal Activity 4 shares with its first film. As such, if you haven't seen any of the previous films and plan only to see this film, feel free to add a star or two to that rating.

For the rest of us though, Paranormal Activity 4 is more of the same as the first film and, therefore, significantly less of the same. Sure, this time around there is an added paedophobic element but that just means you'll spend the entire film wishing you were instead watching Village of the Damned or The Omen, as well as The Shining or Poltergeist. Terrible comparisons to obviously better horror films are made all the worse when the film makes an unforgivably on-the-nose reference to one of The Shining's most classic scenes. We already know this isn't The Shining, did its directors really need to remind us of that fact?

Putting its obvious, uh, “influences” aside, Paranormal Activity 4's biggest sin is that it copies its scares, almost note for note, from the first film. Yes, there probably is something to the fact that this film is at least smart enough to know that the best horror movies build up tension as they go on, as it spends its first hour slowly ratcheting up the creepy weirdness, before going completely bonkers in its final act.

The problem is that the franchise already pulled this exact same trick in the first film. Both films are structured exactly the same, have the same monsters and use the same quiet/LOUD dynamics to elicit cheap scares from the audience. They can throw all the crappy plot twists (and, boy, are these plot twists crap) at the audience as they want, if you can see every “scare” coming a mile away and can even guess when it's about to go for a misdirect, there is simply no way in hell that the film will ever surprise, let alone scare, even the jumpiest of cinema goers.

If you want to spend your hard earned cash on a good horror movie, might I suggest waiting for Cabin in the Woods to come out on DVD/Blu-Ray or even renting one of those old classic that this film references. It's not so much that Paranormal Activity 4 is hopelessly bad, it's just absolutely unnecessary. We've already had at least two Paranormal Activity films too many (I can't judge the third film without having seen it) so please, don't give them the cash to make Paranormal Activity 5. This long-suffering series has limped on long enough.

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