The cast/crew bit: diected by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, starring Kathyrn Newton, Matt Shiverly & Katie Featherson
The ten-word synopsis: More quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet-BANG nonsense.
If you were woken by an alarm clock this morning, then you’ve pretty much already experienced Paranormal Activity 4 today. A long period of nothing happening, followed by a loud noise that may startle you, but more than likely just makes you grumble as you turn over and hope it goes away.
This being the fourth instalment in the Paranormal Activity franchise, it’s safe to say if you’ve seen any of the previous films, then you’ve definately experienced the film. It’s near-identical to the previous three, and just as head-crushingly dull. While I understand why people may have found the original slightly unsettling, there is nothing in this instalment that shall cause any level of terror unless you’re really looking to be scared. (And if you are out to see a scary film at the cinema right now, go and see Sinister, which is a quite nicely-crafted little horror film) The plot, if you can call it that, revolves around a teenage girl called Alex (Kathryn Newton), who seems to have an obsession with filming literally everything she sees. Her brother’s playing football down the park? Yeah, I’ll film that. That U7s knock about is indistinguishable from watching England play, anyway. Getting up in the night to go to the toilet? Hmm, I’d better take the camera. She sneaks into her neighbours house at one point, and when the owner finds it, she keeps the camera rolling, clearly not understanding why she may be uncomfortable with a stranger walking round her house filming every intricate detail. That’s how half of the film is told. Oh, and Alex refuses to put any of this stuff on YouTube, so it’s not like she’s a V-Blog freak. She’s just really, really obsessive and nobody bats an eyelid at that.
The other half is just as ludicrous- via video chat on her Apple Mac. Oh, and her 6-year-old brother and her mum also have them, and all of them can shoot top-quality HD cinema-quality video. I know the found-footage genre as whole rarely makes sense, but never before have I spent so much of a film questioning why they don’t just turn the camera off. (And the rest of the film hoping that they do) The ‘plausability’ of this set up, and note the inverted commas, comes from the fact that her boyfriend (Played by the intricately annoying Matt Shiverly) worked out a way to watch her 24/7 through her laptops’ webcam, and so after a video chat one day, he sits and watched her sleep, only for the films’ creepy kid to clamber into her bed. Alex and irritating boyfriend alike are freaked by this, so decide to set up the two laptops and the Kinect on their Xbox to watch for him. So, apparently, the three laptops camera are on 24 hours a day, and nobody ever closes the lid. This gets especially riddiculous when Alex is running for her life, I repeat, RUNNING FOR HER LIFE, and decides to not just continue carrying her laptop, but also to keep it open, despite the bloody thing being off the whole time. She’s not on Facetime or anything that may explain it, no, she’s leaving it open in the vague hope that some talentless Hollywood filmmaker may stumble across her streams and streams of HD video. HD video which covers 11 days. 11 days worth of 24 hours of HD video. That’s 264 hours, plus Alex’s was recording before that, and has logged it all. The original Paranormal Activity is shot on loser-res cameras than this one, but still takes up 2GB of storage. You can work out how much memory everyone in this stupid family must have on their computers yourself.
The one interesting idea the film does have, to it’s credit, is the use of Kinect. Finally, it explains why the device never works. Because it picks up paranormal entities all the time as well as the player. You know that trick where you put a light off and can see the dots from the scanner al over the room? Yeah, well they appear on invisible murder-ladies who intend to creepy around your house in a manner that makes them look like their wearing the world’s most uncomfortable corset, but have learnt better than to complain. However, we see enough shots of the room covered with green light whilst nothing happens that when the ghost-lady first popped up for a game of Fable: The Journey, I didn’t notice, as I was too busy just watching the clock in the corner of the screen slowly tick by. A lot of the time it’s the only thing moving on the screen. Often, we’ll see a still image for an entire minute before we get the BANG moment. But then half the jump scares are poorly executed and the other half are just poor. I’m hardly a horror afficianardo, but didn’t have anything resembling a heart-stopping moment throughout. Oh, and sometimes the film does a red herring. That’s when it transends just being boring and becomes both snooze-inducingly dull and rage-inducingly annoying. There’ll be 30-odd seconds of just one, still shot of a quiet room, and then… nothing happens. Literally nothing happens. We cut to another still shot on an empty room. Nothing paranormal even happens for a good hour, so the ‘scares’ come from a fridge door shutting REALLY LOUDLY or a girl sitting down on a bed REALLY LOUDLY. They’re not even well-executed- where as the first film understood how to build tension, this is just terribly paced and uneventful throughout the 88-minute runtime.
And, so, when the titular activity begins, it’s a relief. Only there, really, isn’t that much Paranormal Activity in this Paranormal Acivity. The ending (Actually, that’s a flattering word to use on Paranromal Activity 4. It doesn’t even have an ending.) doesn’t make any sense at all, and is just a blatant attempt to build interest in an over-arching plot for the next 9 films. (I want to go into a spoilerific rant, but won’t out of pity for anyone dragged to see the film) It doesn’t work. Oh, and none of it’s scary either. Most of the film, instead, revolves around a creepy kid named Robbie from across the street. I’m not sure why Robbie is a creepy kid, to be honest. On the most part, he seems pretty normal, but the screenwriter seemed to think if he kept writing “Robbie’s a bit weird, isn’t he?” then eventually the viewing public would play along.
Now, crucially, my name is also Robbie. Any shade of fun or enjoyment I found in the film essentially came from me replying whenever anybody said Robbie- “Cheers, I’ve always wanted to be branded weird by an irritating boyfriend character. I had been hoping that the one in Rock of Age’d break the fourth wall and compare me to a demented turtle or something, but that never happened.”. That kinda thing. So, when one character says “I think it’s time for Robbie to leave”, I just thought, you’re right. I took off my film-watching glasses, put them in my bag, and begin to stand up, about to walk out of a film for the first time in my life. While, in the end, I stayed, I do wonder what kind of thrill people with other names could possibly find in this film. I’ve racked my brain long and hard between these two sentences, and remembered that there’s a scene with a kid in the bath, so if you’re a paedophile, you may get one scenes worth of excitement. As for the rest of us? Not so much.
It seems to be caught up in it’s own mythology, as though it thinks people care. No. Nobody does. The only reason these films make money is because people enjoy being scared from time to time. Paranormal Activity 4 doesn’t do this. It’s a scary film that it’s scary. Paramount have, between this franchise and other tired, dull found footage movies such as The Devil Inside, created their own niche for films that are fundementaly broken. They’re poisoning their own well. The franchise is pretty much dead on it’s feet, and no amount of cheap jump scares is ever going to wake it up.
2 jump scares (No, really, at best there’s two jump scares in this film) out of 10