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Paranormal Activity 4

October 22, 2012

My first experience with Paranormal Activity was a fluke. After nearly a year of waiting, Black Dynamite was released in select theaters. I hailed a taxi and rushed halfway across the city to see it, but was a few minutes late walking in. Devotion drove me to break some rules and stay at the theater to re-watch the next showing; you know, to make up for the five minutes I had missed. In an attempt to wait indiscreetly, I further broke more rules and sneaked into the much talked about Paranormal Activity. Only seeing its last 30 minutes, Paranormal Activity shook me to core, replaying in my head as I slept that night, simultaneously with images of Black Dynamite fighting jive turkeys and keeping smack of the streets for whores and orphans. As time passed, I ultimately ended up watching both Paranormal Activity 2 and Paranormal Activity 3, inadvertently becoming a fan of the series as I was impressed with its innovation and continuity. Expectations led me to think the 4th installment would top the 3rd due to the franchise having consecutively gotten better. Once again I was fooled.

Paranormal Activity 2 was the prequel to the original, while the 3rd is something of a spin-off. Paranormal Activity 4 is the sequel to the 2nd installment, set five years after the events that took place. Alex is a teenager living with her parents and adopted brother Wyatt. When the neighbor across the street, a young, strange little kid named Robbie, has to stay with Alex’s family after his mother is rushed to the hospital, strange things began to take place in their home. With the help of her boyfriend Ben, Alex begins to uncover the dark background of her neighbor and his connection with her family.

Stylistically Paranormal Activity 4 is hands down the best of the franchise and one of the more superiorly shot films in the POV found footage genre. Every mode of capturing scenes is brilliantly constructed allowing for action to take place in a wider variety of areas in the home further permitting the house itself to be a major player in the creepiness of the happenings.

Also, Alex’s boyfriend is a tech wizard giving him the freedom to set up cameras in all-seeing areas of the house. The two utilize the recordings of their Skype sessions and Ben sets all the house’s computer cameras to constantly record, creating intimate moments with extreme tight close ups and chilling scares when they happen. There’s also the impressive idea to record in night vision in the living room where the Xbox Kinect is set up. This allows the camera to see the infrared lights streaming from the Kinect giving it the ability to pick up movement from ghosts and people.

However, the story falls apart many times as the explanation of the demon is never fleshed out and its existence is confusing and inconsistent. After four films, we still don’t know the connection between the demon and the occult ritual brought up in the third film and revisited in the fourth. Why does it have to haunt families for weeks at a time before brutally killing some and possessing others is never understood. There’s a possession that needs to take place, a virgin that has to be sacrificed before the demon can take control of Wyatt, and some old characters and elements from previous films return, but why? It’s not explained just as the emergence and need for Robbie as a character is never explained either.

Accepting the pile of manure that is dropped in your lap and called an “ending” is the hardest pill to swallow. The Paranormal Activity films’ ending have never been perfect, in fact that’s the problem with most horror films in recent years. It seems as though it’s easy to create a great concept, chilling atmosphere and downright creepy moments, but when it comes to ending a story most horror films have a bad case of “derp face” and just blow it. Paranormal Activity 4 is the worst at this. It lays you down, lights a candle, turns on the R. Kelly, and works you up to the moment of the big finish and right when you think you’re about to reach nirvana, it turns on the lights and tells you it forgot it had to go to that thing at 4pm so you need to leave. Paranormal Activity 4’s ending was the biggest disappointment I’ve ever sat through and a sad, hurtful moment to have the climax of a film ruined by seeing credits rolling.

Paranormal Activity 4 has the atmosphere, the breaking of expectations as well as great moments of foreshadowing and pretty good acting. It heavy tension and such an engagement that you can’t help but stare hard at the screen searching every bit of the frame for movement. However, the development of the story destroys all the promising aspects it has. Had the writers not tried to set up another damn sequel, Paranormal Activity 4 could have been a great horror film, but instead it took a terrible cop out route and makes the entire hour and half of watching a waste. That I can’t forgive.

SEE IT. But wait to redbox or download it. It didn’t respect audiences enough, so you don’t need to respect it.

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