Sunday, 28 October 2012


Paranormal Activity 4 [Review]

Opinion: C

Deranged and self-indulging is the latest installment of the Paranormal Activity series that serves no purpose and scares with weak screenwriting and coerced frights. If any indication of the direction that the series is intending to pursue, it will be the beginning of a likely death to a once rejuvenating genre concept. Horror fans will likely still consume it up relentlessly, which is very much what the filmmakers have been banking upon.

The fourth installment in the popular horror franchise that was created by Oren Peli (who shot, edited, wrote, produced, and directed the first film) back in 2007, the series has gone a long way with various takes on developing the overall supernatural mythology. Each installment has basically two key deliverables - scares and story continuation. While horror fans might be adequately pleased with the first deliverable, it will definitely make the Paranormal Activity series stand out with a robust story concept.

It draws the highest contrast against a similar Spanish series [Rec], where both adopt found footage to recount a horrific incident. With the revelation of a new installment, more plot clues are thrown in to explain the source of terror as well as to fill plot gaps. The story by Chad Feehan scripted by Christopher Landon is a critical factor of failure as uninspiring scenes take place in place of the static shots that encourage the audience to scrutinise for possible paranormal activities.

While the film takes on new technologies of footage-inducing devices, the perspective is instilled through laptop web cameras, smartphone cameras, and even the Xbox Kinect (with the use of sensor dots). While it is a relevant and welcomed update to reflect the general trend towards adoption of technologies as the timeline progresses together with the film installments, the filmmakers did not make good use of the opportunities that they provide. For instance, in the first few films, the night vision capability as well as the flashlight of the video camera are used to create a range of visuals. The third film also adopts a panning camera that is mounted upon a used fan motor, which further adds on the variety of shots and heightens the sense of anticipation as the camera pans towards new space.

Since found footage is the primary mode of storytelling, acting naturally has a role to play. In the first two films, acting by mainly Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden) made the film much more convincing as their range of performance and the emotional transitions in between gave rise to believable terror as the audience quickly identify themselves with them. The third film jogged further back chronologically and allowed young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) to further impress. While Katie has managed to retain her credible act in Paranormal Activity 4, the new lead character Alex (Kathryn Newton) however disappoints as a mere teenager in distress with a loud scream. It is the young Robbie (Brady Allen) who really gave the creeps and chills who roams in the house in the middle of the night.

Speaking of which, Robbie's character is the beginning of the questionable plot direction that the film decides upon. No doubt, the boring film that is largely free of any genuine scares (mostly cheap thrills) did however escalate towards a scream-inducing climatic conclusion. That said, the conclusion will surely create more question marks than addressing the existing ones. Trying not to get into too much plot specifics, the story goes beyond "Toby"'s disturbances and will surely (and hopefully) be addressed in an already announced Paranormal Activity 5 next Halloween.

The story may well be revived subsequently in the next film, but what the audience really hopes for is to see good innovative scares instead of stale recycled ones. There's got to be more than just Toby making loud thuds and shaking chandeliers, which everybody will find out next October.

1 comment:

  1. I did not even bother with this film. I cannot begin to tell you how boring and irrelevant I find this frnachise. I think it's popular because it is horror light for people who do not watch horror films. There is no "acting naturally", it's all poor ad-libbing and obvious mugging for the camera. There is absolutely nothing scary, creepy, intelligent or even worthwhile in these films. Oren Peli is a huckster at best riding a one trick pony.


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