When you think of the most successful film franchise you think Star Wars, Bond, Lord of the Rings. Right up there is Paranormal Activity (PA). Yup, it probably costs more to make prosthetic hobbit feet then it does to make an entry in the found footage franchise, but since its debut in 2007 it’s become one of Hollywood’s biggest success stories. From its humble origins to a horror franchise that’s grossed more than $600M to date, the PA’s are an eagerly awaited cinematic experience. So how does the fourth one stack up? Set five years after the events of PA2, we’re introduced to 15-year old Alex and her mum, dad and adopted brother Wyatt. When the single mother next door is mysteriously rushed to hospital, the family take in her young son Robbie. Not long afterwards they began to experience a series of paranormal, erm, activities documented by Alex and her love interest Ben through their laptops, iPhone’s and other typically Gen Y devices. As Alex becomes convinced Robbie has brought a ‘presence’ with him into the house, she also becomes disturbed by the boy’s increasing influence on her younger brother. Cue ominous lampshade movement.
With two and three being a prequel and pre-prequel, Paranormal Activity 4 is the first film to take place after the events of the first. It’s also the first in the series that truly feels like a sequel. PA2 and PA3 were great entry-level films with both being enjoyable and sufficiently scary without the viewer needing to have seen anything previously. PA4 benefits from familiarity with the series given several plot points that hark back to moments in all three films (particularly the last).
Since taking over the franchise at PA3, real life BFF’s Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman have raised the stakes from a very confined, almost personal ghost story to a bigger supernatural conspiracy. That being said, the scares aren’t quite as affective as the previous films. The end result is certainly chilling, but not the build up, which is key. We know the tricks. We know that light isn’t just dimming by itself and that door isn’t closing on its own anymore, so it doesn’t scare us. The suspense is lacking. However, when you run out of new ideas, add a creepy child. Want to make it scarier? Add two creepy children and a few Shining references to boot. And I do mean creepy – newcomer Brady Allen gives the kid with dental issues and an overalls fetish from Looper a serious run for his money.
The PA’s aren’t films that diminish in value if you don’t see them in a theatre. In fact, I’d argue they’re more affective watched at home (in a similar environment to that depicted on screen). But you go to see a Paranormal Activity film at the cinemas for the experience; you go to hear people scream at a can being opened, you go to hear teen viewers shout ‘OMFG’ at the screen and you go to see the clusters of people “like, totally freaking out” outside the cinemas afterwards. PA4 delivers all of that through the tried and tested formula of its predecessors: an agonisingly slow build up that leads to an intense final 10 minutes.
Is Paranormal Activity 4 any good or have we just been so starved of horror movies this year that we’re willing to devour anything? Despite upping the ante and delivering an effective mix of first person scares, PA4 is strictly for those still following the franchise with cult-like dedication (or those looking to get their heart rate going on a Friday night).
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Written by: Christopher Landon, Chad Feehan
Starring: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen (Creepy Kid)
Sydney, Australia. Getting her start as a police reporter, her writing on pop culture has appeared in publications such as the New York Post, Guardian, Penthouse, The Daily Mail, Empire Magazine, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, i09, Junkee and many more. Previously seen as a presenter on SBS Viceland’s nightly news program The Feed and as the host of Cleverfan on ABC, she has been a journalist for over 15 years.
Her best-selling debut novel Who's Afraid? was published in 2016, followed by its sequel Who’s Afraid Too? in 2017, which was nominated for Best Horror Novel at the Aurealis Awards in 2018. Who’s Afraid? is being developed for television by the Emmy and BAFTA award-winning Hoodlum Entertainment. Her Young Adult debut, It Came From The Deep, was released globally on October 31, Halloween, 2017 and is a twist on The Little Mermaid meets Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Her fourth book, The Witch Who Courted Death, was released on Halloween, 2018 and nominated for Best Fantasy Novel at the Aurealis Awards in 2019. Her fifth novel set within the share supernatural universe is due for release in October, 2019.