October 21, 2012

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 4

The Paranormal Activity franchise has been an interesting one. It is a series that you either love or hate, it does not inspire much in between thinking. It is a series built on jump scares with just a little not of story and they have somehow been able to keep going to a fourth outing. At this stage of the game, they are not going to win over any new fans and are more likely to start losing fans. For the record, I am a fan of the series and I enjoyed this outing, although they may be reaching a state of critical mass.

These movies have never been built on any fresh or new ideas. The first film preyed on an inherent fear of things that go bump in the night. I bought into it and found it to be a rather unsettling experience. The second film was effective on a level that it did invoke my fight or flight reflex as I fell prey to the jump scares, however this sophomore flick became a Where's Waldo experience, hunting the screen to look for what will move. The third film was a significant upgrade as it brought in the clever addition of an oscillating fan as well as adding significant steam to the story, adding in a coven of witches.

This fourth film is not nearly as unsettling as the first one and not nearly as story heavy as the third. In some ways, this may be the movie that leads into their swan song. As mush as I legitimately enjoyed the movie, I think it is starting to wear down a little bit. How many more ways can be invented to make sure that all the necessary footage is recorded organically within the movie? Beyond that, how much longer can this story be strung along? Before too long we (I) will begin to care less about the story and the movies in general.

The main protagonist here is Alex (Kathryn Newton), a 15-year old with a goofy boyfriend and unbelieving parent who are too busy with their own problems to pay any attention to her talk of strange happenings and noises around the house. The weirdness kicks off in earnest when the creepy kid from across the street comes to stay with them for a few days when his mother is in the hospital. He is a strange boy, standoffish and eccentric.

Veterans of the series know it is a difficult task to discuss specifics. For one thing not a whole heck of a lot happens. For another, to discuss what does happen is to give away elements of the movie best experienced firsthand.

I liked Alex as the protagonist, although the boyfriend successfully steals a few scenes. I enjoyed the new night vision gimmick using the output of a Xbox Kinect. I am intrigued by what may have even going on in the house across the street. While this was not very story intensive, I always felt involved and am curious where the inevitable fifth film will take us.

On the other side, this is not all about how good and enjoyable this outing is. It is far from perfect and can be seen as a regression from the advances from the third entry. There are jump scares, which I always did myself susceptible to, but when the movie ends I was hard pressed to remember any real solid scares, nothing like the kitchen in part two. I also wish there was a little more story, if you think a little about this one, there are a couple of big issues.

I liked the movie, it is generally well constructed. It does manage to change some things up in terms of the protagonist. I gave us someone else to fear that was a bit more than the random moving door. The result is a movie that gives some good and it gives some bad, fortunately it is a mostly satisfying experience that I walked out the better for having seen it.

For a side note, as the climax approached, one of the younger members of the audience became so scared that he got up and ran out of the theater at a full sprint. Afterwards, I was in the hallway and his older brother came out crying because he was laughing so hard. This was a first for me.


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