Call me crazy, but I think the “Paranormal Activity” series is one of the most consistent horror franchises out there. After the release of the original, the two subsequent films succeeded in giving the fans what they want, upholding the scares and tactics that hooked fans in the first. And even more than that, they managed to take those same old scares – the doors opening and closing by themselves, the fluttering of the sheets while the characters are fast asleep – and gave them a fresh twist.
Even after three movies that operate in very much the same way, I was excited and optimistic about this fourth installment. The filmmakers, however, didn’t seem to share my sentiment. There’s an unfortunate feeling of fatigue coating the latest film — a sort of “you know the drill, let’s get this over with” kind of thing. And because of it, “Paranormal Activity 4” is never as engaging or scary as fans have come to expect.
It starts off by reminding us how the second movie ended: A possessed Katie kills her sister and disappears with her baby, Hunter. The two were never seen again…until now. The story takes place 5 years later, with a new family at the forefront – a family that starts to experience unusual things around the time their new neighbors, Katie and her young son, Robbie, move across the street.
Here’s the thing: half of the scariness of these films is something completely of your own doing. When the time-code pops up on the bottom left hand side of the screen, it’s you, the viewer, who automatically curls up into a ball and starts watching the movie through your fingers. And that’s part of what makes them so much fun. But when you start to realize that about 80% of the scares are selfimposed, then that’s the first sign that there’s a problem.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of freaky moments and a handful of good scares – but It’s really the last 20 minutes of the movie that stick with you and remind you why you can never sleep afterwards; it’s chilling, terrifying, and everything we’ve come to love about these movies. But this fourth time around is when this once-consistent franchise starts to show the inevitable: it simply has nowhere else to go. There aren’t any new scares, and the story is barely pushed forward – which makes me start to think that perhaps Katie and demon Toby are starting to overstay their welcome.
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