Magazine article Screen International

Paranormal Activity 4

Magazine article Screen International

Paranormal Activity 4

Article excerpt

Dirs: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. US. 2012. 88mins

The latest Paranormal Activity sequel is the franchise's fourth film in the last four years -- and, unfortunately, it's also the first to be unable to find significantly inventive new ways to freshen up its formula. Despite a few alterations to the well-worn found-footage format, there's a visible sense of strain as the filmmakers struggle to top themselves, resulting in a horror movie whose best shocks carry echoes from previous instalments.

The movie does get some mileage out of the creepiness of utilising infrared cameras and Skype video chats to document the paranormal terrors.

Opening October 19, Paranormal Activity 4 will hope to replicate the first three films' grosses. (Worldwide, those movies brought in a combined $577m, with an almost equal split between domestic and overseas returns.) First weekend sales ought to be robust, but the betting is that word-of-mouth may not be as strong for 4 as it was for 3, which grossed $206m globally and reignited the brand. Still, considering how cheaply these films are made, 4 would have to fail spectacularly for Paramount not to pull the trigger on a 5 to be released this time next year.

Set five years after the events of the first two movies, Paranormal Activity 4 focuses on a Nevada family that includes pretty teen daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her sweet-tempered adopted kid brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). But when Robbie (Brady Allen), a neighbour boy about the same age as Wyatt, has to move in after his single mother is rushed to the hospital, Alex begins to wonder if Robbie has brought with him some sort of invisible evil presence into their home.

By this point, even those who have never seen a Paranormal Activity movie are probably familiar with the construction of a typical instalment. Constructed from recovered footage that was shot by the victims before their untimely demise, each film slowly builds in tension by hinting at the unseen terrors hovering around the main characters before eventually the menacing spirit (which has possessed one of the characters) destroys its prey.

But whereas Paranormal Activity 2 featured a better script and stronger acting than the original -- and 3 cleverly served as a prequel that further fleshed out the franchise's overarching storyline -- 4 essential sticks to past strengths to deliver its shocks. Bringing back the directors (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman) and screenwriter (Christopher Landon) from 3, Paranormal Activity 4 benefits from several underappreciated selling points of this series -- namely, strong, naturalistic performances and a disarming sense of humour amidst the shrieks -- but doesn't add much new in the process. …

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