Paranormal Activity 4

Relax. I’m not going to whine about how over-saturated the found footage market is. I’m not going to complain that to benefit from pretending a movie is cobbled together from non-fiction recordings, you have to explain how those recordings survived and were found. I’m tired of shouting at the rain. People love this crap right now so studios will continue making it until audiences demonstrate they’ve had enough. Say, for example, by not going to see the latest installment in the flagship found footage series…

You can’t really call these things found footage anymore since they’ve stopped trying to explain where the footage was found or why it was captured in the first place. What’s left is a type of movie that is shot in a manner to suggest it could have come from tapes discovered in a condemned house or at the bottom of a well. The style can be summarized as any movie that is predominantly shot on practical recording devices (I.e., devices that are both props in the movie and the mechanisms used to film it. Stuff like camcorders, cell phones, surveillance cameras, and so on.) or shot in a way meant to give that impression.

A lot of Paranormal Activity 4 is shot with webcams (or cameras meant to imitate webcams). There’s no explanation as to who gathered all the resulting Quicktime files and sorted through them, nor apparently is there any need for one. So how about instead of found footage, we call it lost footage? The only way that much incriminating evidence would still exist is if whichever serial killer or government agent or cult member was supposed get rid of it lost the tapes on the way to the incinerator. Or we could just fess up and call it a film done in a practical recording style; prac-rec for those who prefer a portmanteau. Who doesn’t like a good portmanteau?

Please, just push the off button.

The story: Oh Jesus, here we go again. A disposable suburban family that films every waking moment agrees to babysit a strange neighbor boy while his mom is in the hospital. Little do they suspect, the mom is Katie the supernatural killer and her “son”, “Robbie”, is the wholly owned property of a demon. Ominous hints and strange noises quickly give way to people flying around the room and smashing into the ceiling. The camera cuts out. The credits roll. Fin.

Katie, looking svelte for her last movie role ever.

Biggest letdown: The best part of this series has always been its camera innovations. The first movie, mostly for budgetary reasons, relied on one or two consumer grade cameras set up by a curious couple. The second one upped the ante with an all-seeing home security system. The third featured a camera mounted on an oscillating fan, which, while clever, may have jumped the shark just a bit. The innovation this time around? Product placement. The key tools in the arsenal of these amateur ghost hunters are an X-Box and a bunch of MacBooks. They go out of their way to extol the virtues of each, though they never explain how they manage to keep Facetime running on six computers at once without Alex’s parents noticing either (A) the wireless network is slowed to a crawl or (B) the little green webcam lights on their laptops are always on. That’s the magic of prac-rec.

As cool as the Kinect/night vision thing is, the real unexplained phenomenon here is how they’re able to leave the X-Box running 24 hours a day without burning down the house.

Why you should watch: Before the movie started there was a pretty impressive behind-the-scenes look at the new Les Miserables movie. All vocals recorded live on set? No joke here kids, that movie is going to be good. If you don’t like Les Mis we can’t be friends.

I guess watch Paranormal Activity 4 because you really loved Activities 1-3 and you foolishly believe you’ll be rewarded with the conclusion to the “story”. The trick is, the story never ends because they keep moving the finish line. We’ve now had four movies explaining why crazy shit keeps happening, but all that causation and motivation has yielded not one shred of conclusion, other than a bunch of dead bodies. We know everything about why the people involved are going through all this, and even why the ones who started it did what they did. We’ve known all of this since the second movie. What we don’t know is…what. The fuck. HAPPENS.

I love how they show the ghost hunters obsessing over a previous night’s footage of unidentified shadows but this clip didn’t make the highlight reel.

You watch and wait as they build this mythology, but it goes nowhere. It’s like if Star Wars was just movie after movie of Luke blowing up different Death Stars without ever toppling the empire. That’s not a movie franchise, it’s a television series. I won’t tell you what happens at the end of PA4 but I will break my spoiler rule just enough to say that if you were expecting any kind of resolution or even, you know, an ending, save your money because Paranormal Activity hates you.

Oh, hello, Damien.

Memorable Moment: The chief videographer in this installment is a 15-year-old girl named Alex. Early in the movie she and boyfriend Ben are video chatting about her parents, who are always fighting. (Nice to see a slightly dysfunctional family instead of the idyllic home lives that have been destroyed in all the other Activities.) This moment is maybe the only part of the movie that approaches wit as Ben, believably unaware of the irony, assures Alex it’s nothing to worry about, that her parents are just going through a phase. Cute.

Choice quote: “I think it’s really creepy he came in my bed.” (It’s possible I took that out of context to make fun of a movie I didn’t like.)

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4 Responses to “Paranormal Activity 4”

  1. […] Paranormal Activity 4 – Spoiler Alert: it sucks ass. […]

  2. […] That’s it for week numero quatro. Come back tomorrow for one last foreign film, the hilarious and charming Juan of the Dead. After that I have two very solid selections for you, then we bring it home in style with the 2012 31 Flavors of Terror iScream awards.  Which Flavor will take home the top honors? Spoiler: not Paranormal Activity 4. […]

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