'Paranormal Activity 4': Is the movie worth seeing this Halloween?
'Paranormal Activity 4' is the newest installment in the found-footage franchise. Is it a satisfyingly scary story for Halloween?
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Each camera, like in parts 1-3, is built with specific production “tricks” in mind (ex. the living room is enhanced by Microsoft Kinect’s infrared laser grid). Unfortunately, none of them are nearly as entertaining as the setups that came before. For the most part, the Kinect sequences (which are essentially this installment’s “fan cam”) are a missed opportunity and, looking at the way the gimmick is used throughout the film, offers little payoff for the amount of time spent squinting through night vision shots. It’s a problem that leaks into the larger film experience – as Paranormal Activty 4 is the most meandering entry in the franchise. The pacing is stunted, especially in the final act, and the ratio of time spent in tense setups versus onscreen paranormal hijinks has noticeably lessened – resulting in scenes that are less rewarding and ultimately deliver fewer memorable payoffs.Skip to next paragraph
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Mythology buffs who have been hoping for a competent extension of the Paranormal Activity series story will be equally underwhelmed. As mentioned, the film finally advances the larger narrative five years into the future but, surprisingly, creates more franchise plot holes than it addresses as well as significantly convolutes the “Toby” demon lore all while riffing on Paranormal Activity 3 plot points – without adding anything fresh to the mix. Avoiding specific spoilers, it’s fair to say that Paranormal Activity 4 entirely side-steps primary questions that audiences have been asking for years, following the events of Paranormal Activity 1, 2, and 3, in service of predictable twists and a bungled ”bigger is scarier” approach in the last act.
In addition to normal screenings, Paranormal Activity 4 is playing in IMAX certified theaters but there’s absolutely no benefit in paying the premium charge. The confined in-house found footage format isn’t improved by a larger screen or louder sound and it’s hard to find any reason for Paramount’s choice to release in IMAX - aside from inflating ticket prices for a high profile film.
Whether you attend the Paranormal Activity movies for the scares or the story, part 4 is a step down for both audiences. The plot raises plenty of questions that fans will debate in the coming weeks but only because the film is extremely vague on what audiences are actually seeing minute to minute – not because Joost and Schulman create fresh directions or interesting mysteries in this installment (they don’t). That said, creative setups have long-been the franchise linchpin; unfortunately, the spooky setups aren’t particularly original this round either, rehashing familiar found footage ideas with minor twists that rarely deliver big scares. There’s little doubt we’ll see a Paranormal Activity 5 but, given the measly $14.15 million that has been spent to produce four entries in the $576 million (and counting) global franchise, it’s time for Paramount to reinvest some of that money in filmmakers who can deliver a better return on audience investment – i.e. a more satisfying set of scary movie experiences.
Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.
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