Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with some quick thoughts on the latest Paranormal Activity flick.
On the whole I’m fairly indifferent on the Paranormal series. I dug the first one as a fun indie gimmick, don’t remember much about the second film and actually really liked the last one because of where it goes in its final act.
While I think the gimmick has been played out, I respect that this series gets its scares from tension building instead of elaborate torture porn traps or repetitive gore. Not many long-lasting horror franchises can get away with that.
Unfortunately, Paranormal Activity 4 isn’t as concerned with adding to the mythology of the series as the last film was, which really hurts it, especially in the last act.
I should mention that the cut of Paranormal Activity 4 that was screened at Fantastic Fest was a work-in-progress cut, but since we’re 3 weeks away from release and one of the two directors mentioned that the other was currently mixing the sound I’m going to assume that the cut is pretty much locked.
The effects looked rough, I will say that much… and that didn’t help some of the tension building because when I saw an actor roughly composited into a shot that tipped me off that an effect was coming up, so the usual surprise oh-my-god-she-was-just-pulled-off-the-bed or holy-shit-the-ghost-just-threw-her-into-a-wall moments weren’t as effective as they probably will be in the final cut.
So, I won’t fault the movie for that, but I didn’t have much problem with the individual sequences anyway. They do some interesting things with creepy kids, an Xbox Kinect, a kitchen knife and a bathtub and I must also give them credit for shying away from slamming door jump scares and actually winking at the type of horror this is by having a cat cause one of the bigger jump scares in the movie.
The issues I have with the movie mostly surround a lack of purpose. The third film built up to a crazy weird cult thing and this one seems to laze around a bit, going through the motions until it reaches its rather limp finale, which sadly is just a retread of part 3.
In an odd way this film has the most likeable protagonists in teenagers Kathryn Newton and Matt Shively. These two are really good together. It’d be kind of like if Pretty In Pink met Poltergeist because they totally have an Andie/Duckie relationship, but aren’t really together. I say it’s odd because for being the most water-treadingest of the sequels I really liked the characters, so I should have cared more about what happened to them, but the formula of the series is so predictable now that I knew if any hard shit went down it wasn’t going to go down until the end of the movie.
And I wasn’t the only one to feel that way. I have a feeling this one is going to be looked on as the moment the Paranormal films lost their audience, which is a shame because like I said the gags are well-staged and the actors are all good, but it’s wearing out its welcome as a formula.
Not only that, but Katie Featherston is really trying to become the Jigsaw of this series and she’s just not scary or intimidating until she goes all demon-face, but that’s, like, 1% of her screentime.
The series has always been repetitive, but now it’s getting predictable, which is a deadly combination for a franchise. I hope the next one will recover from this stumble by really taking it to the next level. I think I can speak for a great deal of horror fans out there when I say we’re ready for shit to get really crazy in this universe.