The fourth instalment in the Paranormal Activity series proves to be more than a spooky ghost story, but rather an annual institution for horror fans who like their supernatural tales creepy and menacing.
Horror franchises are a tricky thing. Successful examples such as the Nightmare on Elm Street and Saw series of films brought in bucket loads of cash (and twice that amount in gore), yet with each new release came depreciation in quality.
In regards to the latter, the Paranormal Activity series has bucked the trend…until now.
With this fourth entry fatigue has begun to show amongst the scares. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who return from Paranormal Activity 3) have drained the creative well almost dry in this continuing saga about a malicious demon hungry for the soul of a young boy promised to him/her/it during a long ago ritual.
As per protocol, the film is framed in the hand held/found footage format. This time it is curious teenager Alex (Kathryn Newtown) who captures the supernatural shenanigans which begin after new neighbours movie in across the road and bring with them an unwelcome visitor.
For the most part Paranormal Activity 4 is effective. It’s problem lies in originality. Needed was something more than the “same old” for this sequel to truly stand out, especially in regards to the series’ overall plotline which lacks momentum. With Paranormal Activity parts 2 and 3 adding backstory, Part 4 needed to push the series along and make it feel as fresh as the first (and still best) entry.
Despite the laziness of its script, Joost and Schulman still succeed in playing their audience like a puppet. At a screening this critic attended hands were placed over faces, well placed jump scares saw popcorn thrown in the air, and pleads were yelled to the screen for these characters not to make boneheaded decisions that horror movie characters are prone to make.
Four films in and the Paranormal Activity series has become an event, where horror fans pack cinemas with anticipation of getting their wits scared out of them. One can only praise such drawing power in such fiscally shaky times for multiplexes, even when expectations aren’t met on the film itself.