Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
Directed by: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Running time: 88 minutes
“All the activity has led to this…”
What does that tagline suggest to you? Because to me it implies that this installment in the Paranormal Activity franchise is the big conclusion that the films have been building up to. This is the film where the Demon gets what it wants and we, the audience, find out exactly what that desire actually is and why the Demon desires it. Maybe I’m crazy, but to me that doesn’t seem like an outrageously silly conclusion to come to from observing the marketing campaign of Paranormal Activity 4. But does any of that actually happen?
Well, no. At least, not really…
Now Showing this week is Paranormal Activity 4, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who also directed the previous installment. Set five years after the second film, Paranormal Activity 4 centres around a family in Nevada who have recently had some new neighbours move in across the street, one of which is a very strange young boy named Robbie who has taken a keen interest in the youngest son of the family named Wyatt. Alex (Kathryn Newton) is the teenage daughter in the family, and she has been noticing some weird things happening around the house ever since the family has taken Robbie into their home after his mother suffers from an accident and is taken to hospital. These weird things include odd thumping noises, stuff moving, yadda yadda yadda, you all know this dance already.
Relating back to what I was saying earlier about this film being marketed as the huge conclusion to this tale of an unstoppable demonic force, the biggest issue of this film is that basically nothing happens. I don’t mean literally, of course things happen, but in terms of the overall narrative and story-line this film contains nothing really new. There is barely any information in this film that we don’t already know from previous films, and I suppose this is due to the fact that all the characters are brand new and they have to learn everything about the Demon and there is only so much they can learn in the ninety minute running time. Whilst the previous two sequels built upon the prior knowledge of the film proceeding it (the second film introducing the payment of a first born son, the third with the feminist, Demon worshiping cult), this film adds nothing and just reinforces all that prior information. And that’s just plain lazy and unnecessary, especially when there are plenty of questions that could be given answers (like WHY does the demon want a first born son as payment for a deal? What WAS said deal, and WHO made it with the Demon? etc.). Instead, there was no attempt to develop upon any of those questions and more creepy stuff happened. Poor effort fellas!
However, there were some innovations in the film and they were all centred around the scare tactics. A lot of the film involved all the stuff we’ve seen before (swinging chandeliers, doors moving by themselves, children talking to something that isn’t visible etc.) there were two new visual methods in the film that I found to be a triumph. One was the use of webcams. The previous films used handi-cams, and security cameras to tell the story often resulting in me questioning why on earth they were taking the cameras with them where ever they went; however this film was often told from the perspective of the family’s laptops. Alex wanders around carrying her laptop while video chatting with her friend and the result is a very tight shot of her face with a limited view of her surroundings behind her. And when you catch a glimpse of something in a shot like that, the fact that we can’t easily see the rest of the surrounding environment was very effective in terms of tension. And it helped with the whole finding reasons for the characters to be carrying the cameras around, people carry laptops around the house all the time! And after Alex and her friend rig all the family’s laptops to always have the webcam running it makes the new setup work even better for the film. This is good.
But the second method of terror that works amazingly is how the film uses an Xbox 360 Kinect to its advantage. The Kinect camera (which is a motion sensing camera for the Xbox 360 for those of you who don’t know) uses infrared tracking dots to detect movement for certain video games, and when the Kinect is on and all the lights are off, if you are using a night-vision camera, you can see the dots plastered all over the living room. Paranormal Activity 4 uses this image of dots all over a dark room to show movement etc of things that the human eye cannot see but the Kinect’s tracking dots are picking up and it was awfully creepy. A very original idea and one I thoroughly enjoyed.
Sadly though, I’d have to say that the film isn’t very good. I enjoyed watching it, but it was rather unsatisfying compared to what it was marketed to be. There is one large hole in the story, that I shan’t reveal for spoiler reasons, but it was a very story breaking hole; and couple that with absolutely zero effort to further develop the series’ big questions and you have a very disappointing narrative. The last ten minutes was awesomely terrifying as they always are in these films, but overall it was a pretty poor effort for the series. This film is for the die hard fans only.
See you next time!