The Monocle – “Paranormal Activity 4”

Directed by: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Written by: Zack Estrin & Christopher B. Landon
Released: October 18th, 2012
Theatre watched at: Century 8 Theatres, North Hollywood

Happy early Halloween my deer mates! Tis the time of transformation! That’s the true spirit of Halloween, wouldn’t you agree? Pumpkins are viscerally gouged of their innards and lacerated until their facade vaguely resembles a middle-aged father’s favorite classic rock band member who no one knows. Houses are graffitied to look like either Bigfoot had just “finished” having “a good time” or they were invaded by an alien race that look like large, inflatable, cat-shaped windbreakers. As for women, I’m convinced they’ve all formed a secret cult in which they’ve all agreed to being exposed to gamma radiation so they can become the Hulk as they are wearing their favorite public service uniforms, and then transform back to a normal size where 80% of the clothes have ripped off, and then proceed to trick-or-treat or party. And the men, well they don’t really transform I suppose, do they?  Unless of course you consider the transformation that occurs in their middle pants areas as they see these Hulk women, then there’s hope for them yet! Last but not least, the movies transform as well! Oh yes they change too. For example, today’s specimen.

Every year since the Paranormal Activity franchise began back in 2009, the series has progressively transformed into crappier versions of its original self, sad to say. Don’t get me wrong though! I am huge fan of the first Paranormal Activity, it literally scared me to the point where I could not sleep in my own room and rendered me lying tense on my apartment couch with the living room lights on and the television airing re-runs of Family Guy all morning just to keep my mind at ease. I even enjoyed the sequels; 2 and 3 were clearly diminishing in the magic of the first but they were creative and still managed to scare me quite a bit while having a bit of fun. Like I said, I’m a sucker for found footage films, and despite the fact many people began blowing off the series after the second, I stick by the series as being one of the horror experiences that everyone can find appreciation for. Unfortunately, the fourth film finally has me agreeing with the haters.

Paranormal Activity 4 is the wrinkle that is starting to show the staleness of this once enjoyable franchise; it’s boring, uninspired, rarely makes sense, relies way too much on fake scares, and actually fails to move the overhanging plot and mythology set up in its predecessors forward. PA4 takes place in 2011 five years after the events of PA2, in which a demon-possessed Katie, the main character from the original, abducts her younger sister’s son, Hunter, and vanishes into the dark leaving their whereabouts unknown…until now. Unlike the previous installments that followed and centered around Katie’s family, this time the demon terrorizes Katie’s neighbors who have no blood or direct relation to Katie whatsoever. Katie, who throughout her short appearances in the movie we can’t tell if she’s demon Katie or regular Katie who switched sides, falls suddenly ill and is rushed to the hospital while her “son” Robbie needs a place to stay. Robbie, this 7 or so year old “Omen” child now has to stay with his across-the-street neighbors- the Nelsons. Our main character Alex Nelson is a 15-year-old blond girl who has a younger brother named Wyatt who Robbie bunks and plays with throughout the movie.  Of course the moment Robbie arrives, Alex, along with her goofy boyfriend Ben, begin to experience some, say it with me folks, paranormal activity, that’s right, that’s right. Items are mysteriously missed placed, untraceable loud bumps occur, people are thrown across the room, and all that good regular stuff you’d expect from the series. Now, Alex must try and find some solid proof that some crazy sh*it is going on to the “always oblivious” parents before the demon gets what he came for.

As I just explained, there really isn’t much to the plot, I am severely saddened at how close to the chest the directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who directed PA3 quite well I might add, played with this film. The fresh and exciting new ways to capture footage that they presented in PA3 is seriously lacking in this installment. Being 2011, obvious choices to record with such as an HD video camera and a webcam are present but provide no truly interesting angle at which to anticipate the scares for some creative jolts. There is, however, a very unique use of an Xbox 360’s Kinect device (WARNING: This Movie Contains Painfully Perceptible Product Placement) in which they enable the infrared on the HD camera allowing it perceive this magnificent world of motion sensing green dots that completely covers the entire room. This sounds like potential for some awesome ghost footage! But no. It does pick up the ghostly figure of the demon, I’ll give it that, (or perhaps it was the demon in child form) but ends up not being that scary at all, it looked more like a glitch that the people at Microsoft concealed pretty damn well.

The scares and intensity are dim, diminished to fake scares that become easy to anticipate and excruciatingly long moments of pause that end with an object simply moving. I was honestly praying for some loud door closures but even that doesn’t happen. By the time the last few minutes of the movie come around, I’m expecting some insane stuff to occur based off the awesome endings of the previous movies. WORST ENDING OF THE SERIES EVER. Worsened by the fact that it’s never entirely clear why the demon needs to terrorize this family. Sometime in the middle of the film they do the whole “internet search” gig based on a symbol Robbie draws on Wyatt’s back, and from there they read from a passage that supposedly explains what the demon now needs after he’s acquired Hunter from the previous film, but it’s never explored! By the end of the film, I still had no clue as to why we were in that house with those particular people and what that had to do with Katie and her family or the demon for that matter; the plot literally goes no where.

I’m extremely disappointed with PA4 and I say that as fan of the series and a fan of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. I first witnessed their work in the faux-cumentary Catfish (2010), which is an amazing film you should check out, and immediately saw the potential these guys had. When I heard they were given the reigns to PA3 I got excited, and fortunately they delivered! This time around though it seems they got caught under the pressure of their own success and the weight of this extremely profitable franchise. For those of you who don’t know, PA1 was made for a mere $15,000 and made back over $190 million at the box office. PA2 was made for $3 million and grossed over $177 million, and PA3 and PA4 were both produced for $5 million garnering over $205 million and, as of now, over $55 million respectively. This is a cash f*cking cow for Paramount and as bad as this last one was, even I wouldn’t stop churning these out. Paranormal Activity 5 has been green lit for release in October next year; let’s hope they transform it up next time!

Bow Tie Score - 1.0

  • jala

    i love this movie its awsome