by Michelle McGlynn
The scariest thing about the latest installment of the Paranormal Activity series is that there will most likely remain a small core of die-hard fans who will sing its praises. I do not know who these people are but I imagine they are the type who find the beeping of the green man at a pedestrian crossing heart-attack-inducingly terrifying.
The plot, I have been reliably informed that there is one in there somewhere, picks up from where Paranormal Activity 2 left off. Katie (Katie Featherstone) has murdered her sister and her husband and abducted their son, Hunter. We are treated to some flashback footage just in case we have forgotten what happened. The confidence they have in the intelligence of their target audience is apparent here. The audience is then brought forward into 2011, where Katie and her “son” named Robbie (Brady Allen) move into a new home in Nevada. Katie is mysteriously taken off in an ambulance one night and for no discernable reason the family across the road take Robbie in until his mother returns. Holly and Doug (Alexondra Lee and Stephen Durham) see nothing strange about this but their teenage daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) is extremely uncomfortable with the situation. Both Alex, her younger brother Wyatt (Aidan Lovekamp) and Alex’s boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) had seen Robbie around and realised that he is not quite a normal child. Wyatt and Robbie become fast friends once Robbie comes to stay. Wyatt even makes friends with Robbie’s imaginary friend. Very strange things begin happening around the house, coinciding with Robbie’s arrival. How very unexpected. Katie and Ben seem to be the only ones who notice this and so go about setting up camcorders and web cams to record all over the house. As the rest of the family are unaware that they are being recorded the whole time, this serves to be the creepiest element of the film. As the young couple watch their footage they see all sorts of mysterious things such as levitating bodies. Of course, they never show any of the hardcore evidence when trying to convince Alex’s parents because that would be idiotic of them. As I have faith in your intelligence I will not insult you by hinting at what happens next. A newborn could guess what happens and would most likely be equally underwhelmed.
This film keeps in sync with its predecessors and the ‘found footage’ style of filming which had a role in making the first one such a success. It utilises video phones, Skype and web cams moreso than the video-surveillance cameras favoured in the beginning of the series. The only reason we are given for Alex’s need to permanently film her every move with her video phone is a vague reference to the Kardashians. Yes, you cannot even go to a “horror” movie without hearing about the Kardashians now. Some of the other footage is shown through her webcam as she apparently has Skype conversations with Ben whenever he is not physically present. The newest gimmick used in the film is the Xbox Kinect. It would seem that when you turn off the lights and view the room through a camera with night vision the room appears covered in little green projection dots coming from the Kinect. This is yet another way for us to detect a figure moving around the room which is not visible to the naked eye. This trick is the sum total of the thought, creativity and effort that went into the making of this film. It also serves as a nice bit of product placement, don’t you think?
The notion that there was ever a script for this film seems laughable. I would assume they just took the scripts from the first two films and put them together like so many ill-conceived Glee mash-ups. It is also quite possible that there was a competition running between the crew to see who could open a door the slowest. This is the only reasonable explanation I can find as to why this happens so many times.
Paranormal Activity has made its name as a film which can build and sustain tension throughout and eventually resulting in some sort of pay-off. There are several times where you can tell they think they are creating tension, but when you are supposed to jump in terror you are really just pitying their pathetic attempts at horror. Paranormal Activity 4 is so incredibly dull and monotonous that you find yourself in a comatose state within fifteen minutes of it beginning. Yet somehow they think a cat walking across the shot will jolt the audience. I am fairly certain that they would have required electroshocks to jolt me out of my stupor. As you sit there trying desperately not to doze off, you think to yourself “Something is bound to happen soon”. The ending does bring with it a series of events, but they are not scary or worth the time you spent waiting for it. In the length of time it takes to think “Is this it?”, it’s all over. A sense of relief and annoyance will wash over you. Focus on the relief, it’s for the best. To add insult to injury, the film is so terrible it is too much effort to even, search for some kind of humour in just how bad it actually is.
As someone who is creeped out by even the most innocuous child passing me on the street, this film should have been a terrifying experience for me. Both Robbie and Wyatt are not only children but they are also tools of evil, something I secretly believe all children are. The makers of this film somehow managed to take something terrifying and make it seem like nothing more than a pesky fly that refuses to go away. That has to have taken some real effort. The rollerskating babies from the Evian ads still haunt my dreams and they just wanted to sell me water. Yet somehow the makers of a horror film did not even manage to make me feel uncomfortable.
I would not recommend anybody go to see this film in the cinema. It would only encourage them to continue this farce. The fact that people wasted their time to make this film is tragic enough without you wasting your own time and hard earned money going to see it. IMDB claims that the film is 88 minutes long but I would not estimate it to be a minute under four hours. However, if you suffer from insomnia I would suggest buying this film when it is released on dvd. It is sure to lull you to sleep quicker than any medication.