Paranormal Activity 4
Studio: Room 101
Publisher: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: October 18, 2012
Paranormal Activity seems to have taken on a life of it’s own, the franchise now stretching to a fourth film, and it showing no sign of stopping. At first, I was cool with the extra installments – it added a bit more story to what was at first a fairly shallow storyline. There was backstory, interesting interconnectedness, and a slow reveal of the overall story in a way that was interesting. So, does the fourth continue to unfurl an interesting story, or does it show signs of wearing thin?
Paranormal Activity 4 starts by wrapping up all the previous three movies, so if you have yet to see the previous ones then don’t worry – all the important stuff is put into one concise montage (the fact that the first has no bearing on the overall story says something). So if you’re a first time Paranormal-er then this might help you, however if you haven’t seen any of the other Paranormal films then I do not suggest you cut your teeth on this film.
In contrast to the other Paranormal films, the adults of the family play basically no role. While the first had only adults, and the second and third had at least one who knew something was up, this installment has the adults continually brushing things off and only believing it moments before they meet their demise (as in all Paranormal films, the characters don’t fare well).
The fact that the adults play no part, and that the main character is a fifteen year old girl, causes this fourth film to have even less believability than the first three. Not to mention that she fails to use the footage to prove it to them, and also fails to look over it. A staple of Paranormal films is that the characters set up cameras because of odd night time activities, then look over the footage and get freaked out because their fears are legitimate. Alex fails to do this, instead being unable to follow simple instructions in order to obtain said footage.
So many of the family members remain clueless for so long that you end up rooting for the demon, because these damn stupid fools deserve what’s coming to them if they don’t see what’s going on around them. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to go to so much effort to set up the ridiculous amount of laptops you have in your family to constantly monitor your house, and don’t actually put it to any use, then it’s just a really obvious that it’s a plot point used to get ‘realistic’ camera angles.
The movie takes a while to get going, but at the same time the suspense is started too soon. That might not make sense, but the thing is that because the suspenseful moments are started early the tension grows slack, and it is too spread out. In the past, and in most horror/suspense films, it grows to an epic climactic scene where you feel like you’re going to die because the suspense is too much.
The end scene is a climax, but not enough of one. It feels like the build up to one, but with no pay off. The movie leaves you with no sense of catharsis, no moment at the end where you feel like everything has come together in one big bang. Instead, there is a half-hearted twist in the middle that is of no real surprise, and an ending that is reminiscent of the third movie, but without the adrenaline-pumping intensity.
There is some honesty in the film, in the conversation between Alex and her boyfriend Ben about her parents’ relationship. It’s something that a lot of people can relate to, and was a nice conversation that gave a little back story, but for the most part you don’t get a real chance to connect to the family as a whole. It’s just concentrated on Alex and her younger brother, Wyatt. The parents are non-characters for such a large portion of the film that you really just don’t care about them. This is in contrast to previous Paranormal films where you do care about the whole family, and get a chance to know all of them as well.
The use of laptops (while showing just how ridiculously well off the family is – I mean, a laptop just to look up recipes? Come on) is actually something I found pretty ingenious. It allowed them to have close ups of faces, made the cameras mobile, and is a realistic reason for having people carry them around. It built up the suspense a lot, especially when you have a person blocking most of the camera’s view, and worked really well in general.
Another cool visual thing was the use of the Kinect sensor. Having the tracking dots show up on camera, which allowed the camera to track the ‘entities’, was quite effective and allowed for a lot of interesting and suspenseful moments. Perhaps a little more could have been done with this, but it was a really good idea.
The soundtrack to Paranormal Activity 4 is the same as the previous three films, ominous white noise that gets louder as the demon starts doing his business. As with the rest of the franchise, it does a good job at building the suspense and lets you know when stuff is going to go down.
Paranormal Activity 4 is a movie that you’ll watch if you liked the previous three, but you will probably walk away a bit disappointed. While I’m not rallying that the first three were awesome quality, they were still a good watch and managed to get your blood pumping. The fourth does have the suspense, but it isn’t quite as well carried out as it was in the first three, and the story line feels like it spends too long on some things and not enough time on others. By the time the story really starts, the movie is practically over.
The shocks and jump moments are often, and most feel somewhat forced or out of place. Unfortunately it just doesn’t live up to the previous installments of the franchise, and would be best watched only if you have seen the previous films or you might get a bad impression of the franchise as a whole.