Paranormal Activity is a great film. Not a great horror film, but a great film period. Does watching it at home with the afternoon sun pouring in lessen its fright? Of course. But does that take away from the film’s overall impact? Not in the slightest.
And here’s where things get tricky.
And here’s where the delicate balance comes into play: I love what Paranormal Activity did, and how it did it, but I hate what it caused. It seems that every few weeks, a new found footage flick is released in theaters. Sometimes the gimmick works (I’m a huge proponent of this year’s V/H/S), most of the time, it doesn’t (Project X, The Devil Inside, Apollo 18… you get it).
I mention all this because Paranormal Activity’s three sequels justifiably fall into that latter category – they are noticeably inferior found footage flicks, spawned from the movie that singlehandedly resurged the genre.
Christ, I haven’t even talked about the movie. Sorry. PA4 picks up five years after PA2 concluded (PA3, you may recall, was technically an ‘80s-set prequel). Fifteen-year-old Alex (Kathryn Newton) is a little miffed when the creepy kid next door is invited to stay at her house for a few days. His mother was suspiciously dragged off to the hospital, and with no family around, Alex’s parents take young Robbie in without batting an eye. Needless to say, once Robbie shows up, shit starts to go down.
The unseen entity (who we learned from PA3 is to be called Toby) that has terrorized Katie Featherston and her family for years is now (for reasons I won’t mention) taking over Alex’s life. Parts 2-4 of this franchise depend entirely on the frights delivered in the final 10 minutes of the respective films. And to be honest, I have yet to be let down by any of these films’ denouements. They legitimately accomplish precisely what they hope to. The problem is the build up. With each passing film, the 75 some odd minutes leading up to the end become increasingly more tired. Sure, the filmmakers attempt to deliver fresh shocks in fresh ways (succeeding occasionally), but the entire time I sat watching PA4, the notion of, The jig is up, never left my mind.
As it stands now, the films of the Paranormal Activity franchise have cost just over $13 million to produce, and have netted nearly 44 times that. A few days after PA4 hit theaters, a part 5 was announced. Of course it was. And next year we’ll hear about a part 6, and a part 7…
The jig is only up for us viewers. The producers have plenty more to cash in on. You can expect many more of these.
Paranormal Activity: A
Paranormal Activity 2: B
Paranormal Activity 3: C
Paranormal Activity 4: D+