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Movie Review | ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ answers no questions

Latest in ‘Paranormal’ series lacks scares and originality

Published: Friday, November 2, 2012

Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 08:11

Fans of the “Paranormal Activity” series seeking an original or scary movie, or wanting to know what happened to the series’ characters Hunter (William Juan Prieto) and Katie (Katie Featherson) will be disappointed by “Paranormal Activity 4.”

We all remember the series’ first installment, “Paranormal Activity” (2007), and how it was a welcome change in the horror movies genre. The pace of the found−footage film slowly built tension until its shocking climax. Director Oren Peli focused on making his film eerie and spine−chilling, rather than barefacedly gory like many horror films. A sequel followed in the wake of the film’s amazing success, this time directed by Tod Williams. “Paranormal Activity 2” (2010) showed viewers a much larger back−story revolving around Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie, and introduced viewers to Katie’s sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and her family. The movie was an appreciated addition to the franchise. However, after the second film, the story became much more convoluted and the franchise began to falter.

“Paranormal Activity 4,” directed by Henry Joost, includes several horror movie tropes that bring nothing new to the franchise and make the picture dull. In particular, the repeated appearance of a cat — which is completely irrelevant to the film’s plot — is used to create frequent false scares. The audience quickly becomes immune.

The insipid relationship between Alex (Kathryn Newton) and Ben (Matt Shively) is also something viewers have seen time and again. Alex’s endearing relationship with her adorable adopted brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) is one of the only aspects of the film that viewers care about at all. Nevertheless, their peculiar neighbor Robbie (Brady Allen), Robbie’s imaginary friend and the repetitive unexplained “noises” are such archetypal horror movie tropes that they make the film series, which was originally unique, feel hackneyed.

Additionally, the first two films left a number of questions unanswered. Many viewers presumably walked into the third and fourth installments hoping for answers. Unfortunately, most will leave the theater even more confused than when they walked in. We are told halfway through the first film that the “activity” referred to in the film’s name is being caused by an ancient demon. At the end of the fourth film, we know absolutely nothing more. Instead, we are left sitting in the audience pondering why Robbie is a character in the film, questioning who the strange elderly women are, wondering what this new family has to with the original family and, of course, wondering what universe Kristi’s kid Hunter is in. Joost fails to answer any of the questions that were posed in the third installment of the film. He excessively puzzles his viewers, which causes the film to fail as a scary horror movie.

Compared to horror movies like “Insidious” (2010) and “Sinister” (2012), “Paranormal Activity 4” falls completely flat. The director takes no risks that could make the movie original and thus the storyline is much like that in the three other films: slow and uneventful for the first hour and twenty minutes, then crammed with a million different “scary” things in the last ten minutes of the film. The movie would have been much more successful if it had challenged itself and resolved the questions posed in the other films. It seems like this franchise is being milked for all its worth, and in the fourth film there is nothing left to squeeze out of the story. By now, viewers have been left with a sour taste in their mouths with regard to the “Paranormal” series.

Like the producers of the Saw and Final Destination franchises, the producers of “Paranormal Activity” seem to be adding to the pile of unanswered questions in their films just so they have an excuse to make more movies and more profit. At this rate, however, “Paranormal Activity” will have lost its remaining fans by the time the series finally ends.

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