The Score: "It's Clear That The [Paranormal Activity] Franchise Has Jumped The Shark"

Friday, Oct 19, 2012 3:30PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

THE SCORE
THE SCORE 6/10
Watch Trailer
  • Paranormal Activity 4
  • Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively
  • October 18, 2012
Chicago Tribune 2/4
Fangoria 3/4
About 3/5
Hollywood 1.5/5
Entertainment Weekly 7/10

With Halloween less than two weeks away, eager horror moviegoers aching to get in a few early scares need look no further than Paranormal Activity 4 arriving in theaters today.

Fans of the popular horror flick franchise will be greeted with both familiar storytelling and connections to the fourth edition's predecessors.

The newest film in the found footage horror series, "Paranormal Activity 4" continues that tradition, picking up in story terms where the second film left off (the third movie was set in the 1980s and hinted at the origins of the demon bedeviling an unfortunate family). A brief recap of that film's finale -- in which the possessed Katie (Katie Featherston) disappeared with her infant nephew, Hunter -- opens the proceedings before moving forward five years to introduce a family living in a Nevada suburb: disconnected dad (Stephen Dunham), harried mom (Alexondra Lee), young son Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), gamin teenage daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her boyfriend (Matt Shively). After a creepy neighbor boy named Robbie (Brady Allen) comes to stay with them for a few days, weird things begin to happen around the house. When Katie suddenly appears it implies that Robbie is, in fact, Hunter, though it seems she has some dark designs on young Wyatt. (Chicago Tribune)

Once again, filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman helm the latest installment.

Mockumentary filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) know a thing or two about misdirecting an audience, as they proved again with 2011's Paranormal Activity 3. Together with returning screenwriter Christopher Landon, this time around they seem short on new ideas, however, relying more on the series' reputation for low-budget thrills to attract audiences. Regardless, by now Paramount's franchise is a brand unto itself, and it's unlikely that anything will stop the first few waves of fans boosting Paranormal Activity 4 up the chart until at least through Halloween. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Most of the footage is caught with modern-day technology including laptops and Skype.

Eschewing a continuation of the open ending of the previous 1988-set prequel, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 recaps the conclusion of 2, in which the possessed Katie (Katie Featherston) was last seen spiriting away her infant nephew Hunter circa 2006. Five years later, an odd little boy is seen watching in the background as teenager Alex (Kathryn Newton) videotapes her little brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) at his soccer game. To effect these movies' signature found-footage style, Alex, like all PARANORMAL protagonists, has a penchant for running her camcorder at all hours of the day, and her Skype chats with boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) are accidentally--he says--recorded on his own laptop. When weird stuff starts happening around Alex's house, Ben is able to set up the computers in every room to send nonstop video feeds back to his machine, where the images can be recorded and perused later. (Fangoria)

Despite some scary adventure, various movie critics found numerous faults with the flick.

Eschewing a continuation of the open ending of the previous 1988-set prequel, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 recaps the conclusion of 2, in which the possessed Katie (Katie Featherston) was last seen spiriting away her infant nephew Hunter circa 2006. Five years later, an odd little boy is seen watching in the background as teenager Alex (Kathryn Newton) videotapes her little brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) at his soccer game. To effect these movies' signature found-footage style, Alex, like all PARANORMAL protagonists, has a penchant for running her camcorder at all hours of the day, and her Skype chats with boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) are accidentally--he says--recorded on his own laptop. When weird stuff starts happening around Alex's house, Ben is able to set up the computers in every room to send nonstop video feeds back to his machine, where the images can be recorded and perused later. (Hollywood)
As a fan of the Paranormal Activity films, I've ignored the creeping suspicion in the back of my mind that the series has been in a slow creative decline since the first movie, but as solid an example of the found footage style as the latest entry is, it's clear that the franchise has jumped the shark. By the fourth time around, the scares are just not as potent as they once were, in part because the element of surprise has vanished. Audiences have become hip to the series' game, scanning the room in every scene in anticipation of an object moving or a figure materializing, and when it does, it's hardly shocking. (About)

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