Movie Review - Paranormal Activity 4
There aren't many horror film franchises that have made quite as much of an impact as Paranormal Activity. Since its initial release in 2007 at a variety of film festivals, it has often been touted to be the scariest series of all time. A fact with which I humbly disagree. While full of startling "BOO!" moments, it has always lacked the overarching creepiness that has a tendency to linger more that outright shock.
Set five years after the end of PA3 we are reunited with young Hunter and his aunt, Katie, who was last seen taking the child from the arms of his dead mother. They move into a house across the street from what we are assured is a normal suburban American family before chaos ensues.
One of the main issues that I have with Paranormal Activity 4 is that it is just more of the same, if you've seen the first, second or third incarnation you won't be getting anything new. Granted, the POV "Blair Witch" style of film making is limited in terms of potential but none of the scares or terror building have changed since the initial film. Audiences know that something sinister is closing doors, we know that the family we've been introduced to are as good as dead and we know that creepy kid is creepy. The main issue is that all of these plot points are now anticipated because they have been repeated time and time again and in turn, the shock factor is diminished. Moments of impending fear are even forecasted by the use of low rumbling or nigh-on inaudible high pitched squeals, elements that in the Neuropsychology field have been shown to increase anxiety levels. It's a cheap trick but appears effective unless you actually focus on it, then it just becomes an announcement of "here comes a BOO!".
Another issue with the prominent POV style of film making is that you, as a viewer, are unable to connect with the subject because you rarely see their face. You can't connect to the character because you are unable to fully realise the depths of their despair or the terror that they endure.The characters too were derivative and archetypes of the horror genre - the feuding parents, Gen-Y daughter (OMG, I've like got a Mac!) and creepy as shit children of the corn kid. This presents yet another problem, you are never surprised by the actions of the characters who all act in a manner that you expect and that is the overriding problem that I have with Paranormal Activity 4. For a film that is designed to shock and terrify, every twist and turn was expected.
Paranormal Activity is a franchise with promise, the first film proved this fact. Unfortunately it appears to have stalled, cashing in on cheap scares instead of attempting a more enduring terror. That said, it was a very fun experience to watch in a cinema full of teenagers who had a tendency to scream like One Direction was in the room.