For the last four years the Paranormal Activity series has been scaring the pants off audiences with it’s slowed paced, found footage style horror. The first film was shot on a shoestring budget and shelved for two years by Paramount, who didn’t seem to see the gold mine that the series would produce. In 2009 the film was finally released, and was met with massive financial and critical success.
The studio was quick to jump on this, and immediately planned a sequel for the next year. Most were hesitant regarding the sequel, thinking that this, like many other horror franchises, would be a one trick pony that would quickly wear out it’s welcome. Fortunately this was not the case however, as the second film garnered more critical praise (for the most part) and proved that a horror sequel can actually be a good movie at the same time.
Paranormal Activity 3 came out exactly one year later, and again, much to the surprise of this writer, the filmmakers were able to bring new ideas to the story, and keep everything feeling original despite the formulaic premise.
In the case of Paranormal Activity 4 however, this does not hold true. This entry feels lazy and relies too heavily on rehashing the same jump scares that made the other films so popular. The fourth entry in any film has the odds stacked against it, and this one just couldn’t stand up to it’s predecessors.
The plot of this film is nearly the exact same as the others. There’s a family who becomes terrorized by a demon that seems to love being an asshole. The gimmick with this one is that the daughter of the family utilizes webcams and the Xbox Kinect to capture much of the spookiness.
While the use of this technology worked in some scenes, particularly the ones involving the Kinect’s motion dots, it didn’t really add anything groundbreaking to the found footage style. The addition of the oscillating fan was a stroke of genius in the last film, and webcams just didn’t stack up.
The biggest issue in this film though, was the plot. The Paranormal Activity mythos is interesting because in each film we’re given a little bit more of the story and a huge twist that makes it all the more intriguing. There were a few small twists in this film, but they were pointless, and the film felt like it took a huge misstep with the storytelling. The climax was nowhere near as satisfying as the previous entries, and left me with a feeling unsatisfied, with a slight case of deja vu.
Though I’m sure this movie will make millions this weekend and the series doesn’t seem to have any end in sight, it’s probably time to end the series. Maybe next year they will bring everything to an exciting conclusion and folks can just skip over this one. Something tells me though that the studio is going to milk this teat dry and suck out what little life is left in the series until they are all manila envelopes like this one.