Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paranormal Activity 4 Suffers from Too Much Cuteness: A Movie Review

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* there are spoilers here.

Directors: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.

Writers: Christopher Landon and Chad Feehan.

Cast: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton and Matt Shively.

The social experiment is back and Paranormal Activity 4 is not worth the price of an IMAX ticket. Audiences with any interest with the series are better off waiting for a regular presentation or a video-on-demand release. Nothing about the movie was even reported to be filmed with the square-shaped camera format. At least at home, the only shocker is in knowing that money has been saved.

The tale is with the Nelson family, who take a mysterious boy, Robbie (Brady Allen), from across the street in. His mother is as always busy and often leaves the child alone, strangly. Not only is this neighbour a bad parent but also she has had an undisclosed incident that summons an ambulance over to take her away. With her gone, the matriarch of the Nelson house, Holly (Alexondra Lee), tries to do a good deed which ends up bad. Wyatt Nelson's (Aiden Lovekamp) new friend has a dark secret.

More often that not, Robbie does not get to speak much. He just prowls around at night and does a few acts uncharacteristic of a boy. That includes crawling into the bed of Alex (Kathryn Newton), a teenager who is documenting the events unfolding in her home.

Much like the previous films, this one takes video voyeurism to new levels. At the heart of this movie is seeing the very comely Alex hanging out with her boyfriend, Ben (Matt Shiveley). She likes to capture every moment with him with her smartphone's video camera. At night, she often talks to him on her laptop's built-in webcam. But when Ben admits to recording their conversations with his computer, Alex’s feelings for him do not change. Ben's own webcam caught Robby crawling into his girlfriend's bed! And he seems mostly puzzled by it.

When the paranormal activity starts to begin, nothing new is gained or invented. Modifying the Xbox Kinect to record video is hardly innovative. The same stale tricks like human levitation are old. Instead, some audiences may be asking where are the frights? To see Robbie talk off camera to a TV is hardly scary. This movie is not Poltergeist. The boy's sambalistic behavior is hardly jarring either. He is nothing like Cesare from the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, either. The teaser trailer had some good creep factor when he was introduced standing around stoically. But he is hardly anything like Damien from the Omen. That early comparison made from preview images is unfounded. Paramount Studio’s marketing department released those images to have fans and media reports guessing at what is in store in Paranormal Activity 4. When watching this film, none of those ideas that this publicity engine pushed are truly realized.

Half of the time, audiences are just looking at the everyday life of Alex. Newton sells the role of the atypical teenager very well. A clear affection for Ben is definitely noticeable. But as for the supernatural goings on, her reactions are not quite there. The eeriness is non-existant.

And her obsession with recording is as fanatical as with the previous films. In the first two films, the guys were the gumshoes who had a reason to be all alpha male. But to switch that around, the concept does not work. Most people would have dropped the camera and ran. When daylight breaks, they may come back later to retrieve the recording device. To see Alex react to what the equipment captured before it ran out of power would have been far more interesting. The early part of the film got the concept right, but it just gets forgotten in favour for the same tropes of the found footage genre. The only pins and needles found here are what’s stuck in the movie theatre seat just to give people a true scare. Who knows what kind of disease may be carried if it was sat on.

Sadly, this movie's problem is that it has no life. The only reason PA4 exists is to convince a younger demographic to watch this series like it was the new Friday the 13th. But can this movie even be classified as stalker-style terror? The answer is no. Does this movie even address the events from the last movie? Yes, thankfully.

A few added reveals to show how far this mystery cult reaches and what the tattoos Robbie has do not mean much. Without detailed context, all this movie does is to entice audiences to follow this series to its bittersweet end. Hopefully with two more movies confirmed, that will be it.

At this rate, audiences who want a plot will have to wait for a director's cut or fan edit. The major points hold together here like pigeon droppings. If the writers are trying to make a paper trail, they are forgetting to connect the dots. All they had to do was present more information about the other people living on the street. Suddenly, they appear out of nowhere to frighten Alex. All audiences can gather is that the witches from this oddball town of Nevada have plans for Wyatt. With the possessed and grown-up Katie Featherson leading the charge, maybe they are out to give her an all male harem.

Hopefully the producers are not considering dragging the franchise out to nine movies. Six is a good number to end the series with rather than 666.

Overall: 2.5 out of 10.

The film's homepage is here:

The Paranormal Activity 4 Official Website

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