Monday, October 22, 2012

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

As far as I'm concerned, Paranormal Activity 4 was a flop. The first entry in the series was brilliant, and gave me nightmares. The second entry accomplished the nigh impossible task of living up to the reputation of its predecessor, and I recall sitting through that one in the theater with a constant adrenaline buzz. The third entry was a misstep, taking a wild left turn in the department of plot development, but still had some genuinely scary moments. This fourth entry in the series, however, offers very little in terms of good scares, and in the process of trying to develop the plot further, really screws itself over.

Paranormal Activity was good, because it was extremely simple. A young couple is haunted by paranormal activity in their house. And the point of the film was to display some of that paranormal activity and scare the crap out of the audience - which worked, because that stuff is genuinely terrifying (unless you're the kind of person who just isn't scared by that sort of thing). I understand that you can only do the same thing so many times before people get bored (although the advertising for these Paranormal Activity movies is dreadfully repetitive), and I actually welcome the approach of giving the series some mythology and plot development through the sequels.

The revelation at the end of PA3 was pretty wild, but it didn't turn me off completely. The problem with PA4 is that it doesn't make any damn sense. The plot's becoming too convoluted, with not enough expository information, and it really seems to me that the people working on these later sequels do not know how to tell a story. Why was Hunter adopted? Who the hell is Robbie? Is there one demon or two? Is Katie possessed, and if so, by who, if not the demon (or can he possess multiple people?), and if not, where does she get her supernatural powers? They hint at a lot of this mythology with the whole "witches coven, circle in a triangle symbol" (brief) dialogue, but they don't give any answers.

Things like this are fascinating when you can put the pieces together, not when you don't know what the hell's going on. And I understand that there is definitely some value - especially from a horror standpoint - in confusion and uncertainty, and a film shouldn't give all its secrets away too soon, but when you throw in certain plot points that don't make sense - either you give the audience some way of working it out, or it's just plain bad writing. I don't think the filmmakers necessarily did anything absolutely wrong in terms of the direction they're taking this story, but I just get the impression that they're just not very good at what they're doing.

On the other hand, they made the excellent choice of casting a gorgeous blonde teenager (who may or may not play the role of the sacrificial virgin) in one of the main roles in this movie. She was a delight to watch on webcam. I realize this is pretty much exploitation of a pretty girl for ratings (intentional or not - but I'm not that naive), but hey, who am I to complain about a pretty face? Given that PA4 works so poorly as a Paranormal Activity movie, I would have been more satisfied if they had just named it Normal Activity and stuck to voyeuristic shots of Alex in her bedroom.

How's that for a scary movie? :p

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