Happy Halloween

This one’s worth skipping!

This Illuminati-esqu symbol occurs several times through the film. Uh-oh. What could it meeeaaan?

Trite; works as a rental

By always coming back to these movies and seeing every installment as it is released, I’m not claiming that these are by any means masterpieces or that they’re the most effective use of the ‘found footage’ shtick in film history. The shtick, in fact, kind of wore off after the second film or maybe even the first, but it is the continuously expanding story of this franchise that keeps me interested and makes me want to see some more. Paranormal Activity 4, however, is where my cup runs over.

First of all, some brief toughts on the last three entries in the series. The first Paranormal Activity was flawed but still had scary moments. The second one is my favourite with its more intense scenes, likeable leads and creepy cliffhanger. Paranormal Activity 3was okay, but disappointed me by not following the cliffhanger of movie 2 and went for a prequel instead. The new movie almost fixes that.

The previous three movies focused largely on the relatives of a woman named Katie (Katie Featherston) and her encounters with a demon, Toby, that’s been haunting her since childhood. The star of this film, however, is a chatroom-dwelling and very Hollywood-looking teenage girl, a decision I doubt will be universally applauded. Her name is Alex (Kathryn Newton). She’s of a whole other family (or…?) and she is concerned about her adopted little brother Wyatt and his choice to hang out with a creppy kid from next door, Robbie, who seems to be the new friend of Toby. When Robbie starts coming over for sleepovers, Alex and her boyfriend (Matt Shively), one of the more enjoyable characters, think of the only logical thing to do – shooting the crap out of everyone! With cameras, I mean.

You all know where it goes from there. Cheap, fake-out jump scares, creepy static night-vision shots, skeptical parents (I thought the daddy looked like Patrick Swayze), things that move and a laughable audience that shrieks as soon as a frickin’ cat tips something over. Yes, this movie actually has cat jump scares. That and some rip-offs of The Shining and The Exorcist.

Alright gentlemen, we need more young people to wanna see this one. Quick, throw in the hot blonde!

The constant screaming of the abnormally easily frightened movie-goers made the experience exasperating, distracting but also unintentionally comical because of their over-the-top reactions. I think even PewDiePie would roll his eyes and ask ’em where the Hell their balls have gone. Maybe I’d have enjoyed the movie more if I’d skipped seeing in a theater and instead had seen it alone at home, in the dark, where the effect would’ve been more spooky. Considering the quaility of the rest of the film, though, I’m unsure.

The more I look back at it, the more I remember how few the real scares are, let alone the actually scary ones. I think Jeremy Jahns put it best in his review, where he said that a good horror film is one that makes you feel worried and scared of even going home afterwards. This made me think of Eraserhead and how lost, little and afraid it made me feel, even for days after seeing it. Paranormal Activity 4 doesn’t have anything like that.  Formulaic and sometimes silly though they were, the previous movies did at least provide some genuine scares. Fourth time around, I guess I’m just tired of the found footage gimmick, especially since I’ve been watching a lot of Marble Hornets and EverymanHYBRID lately. Trust me, once you’ve seen Marble Hornets, everything else, Paranormal Activity included, is just peanuts.

The more enjoyable aspects of the film include the spooky little kid, the fact that it does finally answer some questions about the ending of Paranormal Activity 2 (even if it raises even more) and one or two genuinely scary scenes near the end. The climax in particular is the coolest of any of these movies. But in my opinion, it isn’t really worth it. Especially not in a theater stuffed with people with an uncontrollable phobia towards sound effects and cat-related jump scares. My word of advice: if you’re gonna see it, rent it.

Will I be returning for the inevitable fifth installment? Probably, but it becomes more and more apparent that it’s all about money now. The films are dercreasing in quality but heck, watching them upon their release it pretty much tradition at this point. For what it’s worth, I hope the next film doesn’t at least show Toby as a transparent little boy, like they seemingly did in this one. But maybe that’s just how he appears when speaking with Robbie. Maybe he has different forms? I dunno. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.  Damn it, Paranormal Activity. Stop making me want to see more of you!

2/5 whatever