PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 – The Review
It’s nearly Halloween so we have plenty of spooky flicks on the multiplex screens. Of course there’s got to be some examples of the big, fairly-new horror sub-genre : the found footage flick. It expanded to other areas recently with comedy (PROJECT X) and super-heroes (CHRONICLE), but mainly the fright films like V/H/S and the current hit SINISTER (which gives it a retro spin with the hero viewing mayhem in old 8mm home movies). This shaky camera stuff really broke through with 1999′s THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT with its ”could it be real” vibe. A similar vibe made the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY a surprise smash in 2007. While BLAIR conked out after one sequel, this weekend see the release of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4. Can the producers still deliver the ghoulish goods, or is it time to pack up the camcorders?
I’d only seen the second entry in this series, so I was concerned about whether I’d be at a loss. Luckily it begins with the ending of PA2 as (SPOILER ALERT!) Katie (Katie Featherston) smashes her sister and dashes away with nephew Hunter back in 2006. (SPOILER ENDED) With PA4, five years has passed and we’ve left California for Henderson NV (just outside of Vegas), the home of 15 year-old blonde Alex (Kathryn Newton). Besides some tension between Mom and Dad, all’s going well for her and her little seven year-old brother Wyatt. And then the new neighbors arrive. Odd, quiet Robbie and his single mother move into the place across the street from Alex. When an ambulance takes away Robbie’s mom, Alex’s folks offer to take in the youngster ( after all, he’s the same age as Wyatt). Then the weird stuff really starts to happen. Luckily it’s documented with the help of Alex’s wise-cracking tech-wiz boyfriend Ben (Matt Shivley). If it’s all recorded, then it must be really happening, right?
So, instead of an old, cobwebb filled mansion or estate we’ve got a nice, fairly new suburban two-story as a supernatural host. And now because of new technology they’re not just dealing with some video cameras, but all the laptop computers and even a home gaming system (which Ben rigs to blanket the living room in green motion-sensor dots). There’s still the quiet scenes of the dormant rooms in the hours just past midnight (Ben’s hidden recorders are always working) that made up most of the previous PA films. Video chatting via laptops provide much of the material here also (the shots of Ben and Alex carrying the devices can be more than a bit disorienting). So, is it scary? Well, there’s a few jumps here and there, but certain cliches are creeping in. Since there’s no music score, the film makers use random loud crashes to jolt us (enter dark room, count to five, WHOMP!!). Then there’s the big reveal as the camera spins to an object that quickly appears in frame. We also get get several dark blurs zipping past the camera or past the door openings. I wouldn’t have minded this little bits of hand-held trickery, if the characters were a little more than demon fodder. Alex and Ben are nice teens, but not engaging. Mom and Dad barely register while the tots are there just to be in jeopardy. As far as these “found footage” films go, the effects are fairly clever, but the ending seems much too abrupt with several plot points unresolved. Maybe it’s being saved for PA5. I’ll take a pass. I’ve had more than my fill of this shaky stuff. Leave it for the internet and give me something with the camera locked down and boasting a haunting music score. Oh, and a story that doesn’t totally rely on cheap noises and shocks. Hmmm, the Universal Monsters are on Blu now…
2 Out of 5 Stars