Paranormal Activity 4
The found footage horror series runs out of steam
Should we be suspicious of any series that manages to churn out a new film every single year? Saw managed seven years in a row, with new product in place every October from 2004 to 2010. Now Paranormal Activity is back for it’s fourth instalment in four years, just in time for Halloween. At least with the stripped down found footage format the quick turnaround is easier to understand.
We pick up after events in Paranormal Activity 2 with Katie (Katie Featherston) abducting her young nephew Hunter. Five years have passed and we join another anonymous suburban family as things take a turn for the supernatural after they take in the creepy kid, Robbie (Brady Allen), from across the street after his mother is apparently hospitalised. Cue unexplained shadows, objects moving on their own and strange noises in the night.
It’s teenager Alex (Kathryn Newton) who instigates the surveillance, rigging up webcams around the house, with much of the action captured via video messaging and smart phones. It gives Paranormal Activity 4 a slightly different look and moving the action to a new family also helps break up the feeling of repetition to some degree. Even on this fourth film Paranormal Activity is still probably the leader within its subgenre but it’s hard not to suffer from found footage fatigue, especially with the glut of inferior copycats in recent years (Apartment 143, The Amityville Haunting, Paranormal Entity, etc).
Returning directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman do manage to capture some nice naturalist performances but there are too many fake-outs, lessening the power of the few creepy moments they do spring on the audience. It feels like the well of ideas is running dry and while we want to avoid spoilers all the revelations are fairly obvious. Unfortunately while the series is still making a ton of money they will probably stretch out the concept until breaking point (in fact there’s a teaser for a Latino spin-off after the credits).
The biggest disappointment is that PA4 just isn’t as creepy as its predecessors. It never quite manages to capture the same tension and dread, the scares have become predictable, after all there are only so many times you can pull off the same trick.