Review No. 453
By now, it’s so predictable, they may as well start calling it “Normal Activity”.
Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Screenplay by: Christopher Landon
Story by: Chad Feehan
Alex Nelson: Kathryn Newton
Ben: Matt Shively
Wyatt Nelson: Aiden Lovekamp
Robbie: Brady Allen
Doug Nelson: Stephen Dunham
Holly Nelson: Alexondra Lee
Katie: Katie Featherston
Distributed by Paramount Pictures on October 19, 2012. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 88 mins. Rated R by the MPAA–profanity, infrequent violence.
Paranormal Activity 4 was watched on March 24, 2013.
“Please don’t hurt me!” –Alex (Kathryn Newton)
As I remember it, the first in the Paranormal Activity series was creative. Oren Peli, who traced fear of even tame movies such as Ghostbusters back to his childhood, directed and photographed the film in his own home on a $15,000 budget, most of which was toward the camera and household refurbishment. The cinematography was used uniquely–and, for many, effectively–to suggest that you are the target of terror as you sleep in your own house. Most impressively, the entire script was ad libbed, and it all feels more real that way.
By the fourth in the series, this innovative layout has become a structure. I had to wonder if these people were ad libbing now, and if so, I’m scared. Funny how that’s all that scared me, that in a $5 million budget, no one could set a penny aside for acting lessons. Wait a moment. Time for your daily mind-blower: There was a writer. So there was a screenplay. It’s so formulaic, uninspired, and effortless that if you’ve seen any horror movie, you’ll be too bored to scream, or to laugh at the gimmicks (unfortunately, there’s more of the latter).
We’re shown a montage of the last few entries during the opening sequences. And guess what? It ends with a black and white title card that says something like, “Katie and Hunter’s whereabouts remain unknown.” You’ve all seen this card since the second movie, and in the first movie, you saw it with just Katie’s name. Not being able to expect it is like being surprised when John McClane repeats his one-liner in a Die Hard movie; or when Obi-Wan Kenobi says, “May the Force be with you,” in a Star Wars movie; or when Arnold Schwarzenegger foreshadows his return in…well, any movie.
And that’s not all. The film opens as if nothing is wrong. Then, a strange little boy comes over every day to play with Katie’s neighbors (remember, her whereabouts remain unknown, and we are to assume that the police gave up on the investigation after they found her boyfriend lying dead in his own house). And coincidences start happen. But these characters are stupid, as is usual for a horror movie with an equal IQ. They get perpetually paranoid when they hear even a thump. It doesn’t need to be loud; they could be in the front hall, hear a thump and scream, not caring to check and see if they’ve gotten a package from UPS or something of that utterly common nature. Come on. Are you not human? Or are you just plain stupid?
It’s mainly the adolescent girl, Alex. The garage door opens and she hyperventilates. You’re home alone, kid. Ever consider that, uhh, it’s your parents? And not a demon? She’s constantly paranoid, and it’s not until the last few minutes that we can’t really say this “demon” stuff is in her head. Sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s just downright annoying. But this is a horror movie, which should imply “scary.” Most parents would notice their daughter going crazy and schedule an appointment with doctor. They would not tell her time and again that she’s delusional. Most people would notice the faucet’s running and go to turn it off, not wake up and move to a different sleeping position. But god, was water wasted. You know, children are starving in Africa. They could use that water. And a movie has gone to waste, too. When this takes over the box office while better movies (Argo, anyone? Looper?) are also out, you’re being starved of your entertainment.
Anyway, back to the story. Forgot it was there.
Of course, these aren’t coincidences after all. Objects start floating. Wow I’m so scared. A girl starts floating over top her bed. Yes, that was in The Exorcist, as well, just shot at a different angle. And a little boy finds an imaginary friend named Toby, just as Danny did in The Shining (that one was Tony with an ‘n’ though). Make no mistake, this little boy rides around the kitchen in his tricycle. Sound familiar?
My biggest confusion with PA4 was that we’re supposed to believe this is “found footage,” perhaps by dismissing the clear notion that these home video cameras have been placed where they wouldn’t stand on their own, and nobody seems to know or really care that they’re on. Did you really leave the Kinect camera on all night, just because you turned it on and thought it had cool quality, not notice it in the morning, and repeat that same thing for about two weeks? Damn you’re stupid. Did you really forget to log your computer off…of a video chat? Every night? I don’t think so.
I’m glad that at the very least, I could laugh at PA4 for some time. “Some time” being up until the lame climactic moments. Come on now. I thought I would have been saying this with regard to the previous effort, but I ended up enjoying that thin, somewhat cheating story for what it was. One lazy effort like this, something that fails all my “horror movie reflexes,” and my cup runneth over.