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REVIEW- Little Regard For Plot In 'Paranormal 4' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Justin Lowe   
Thursday, 25 October 2012 06:19


This Oct. 16, 2012 photo released by Starpix shows directors Henry Joost, foreground left, and Ariel Schulman, with sunglasses, posing with fans at a screening for their film, “Paranormal Activity 4,” at Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 in New York.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -Mockumentary filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) know a thing or two about misdi-recting 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.

Quickly recapping with flashbacks and documen-tary-style introductory cards the conclusion of "Paranormal Activity 2," when in a prequel to 2007's original film Katie (Katie Featherston) killed her sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and abducted her nephew Hunter (William Juan Prieto), the current version jumps ahead to 2011, relocating the action from California to Nevada and introducing an entirely new family. Teenager Alex (Kathryn Newton), her 6-year-old brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) and their parents (Stephen Dunham and Alexondra Lee) live a typical middle-class suburban life, even if they think their neigh-bors across the street - single mother Katie and her young son Robbie (Brady Allen) - are a bit of an odd pair.

After Katie is unexpectedly and mysteriously admitted to the hospital for some unknown illness, Alex's mom inexplicably offers to take Robbie in while his mother is recovering. Alex soon begins to notice strange events coincident with Robbie's arrival, while the young visitor's insinuations increasingly draw Wyatt away from her. Other family members also begin to clue into the strange goings-on, with mysterious sounds, shift-ing furniture and alarmingly animated household objects suggesting something is seri-ously amiss.

With the help of her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively), Alex sets up the family's home video cameras and laptops to record Robbie's late-night wan-derings and vaguely sinister activities around the house. As Alex becomes more convinced that some evil presence is seek-ing her out, the mysterious forces behind Robbie's visit become more assertive, square-ly threatening the family's sur-vival while inexorably tracking back to the earlier abduction of Hunter.

By now the basis of the "Paranormal Activity" fran-chise, concerning Katie's pos-session by a demonic force that results in a series of malevolent-ly haunted houses, is well-known to those who care to fol-low each new iteration. The fourth installment adds very lit-tle new information while play-ing out the inevitably unpleas-ant outcomes that await the characters, preferring to recycle plot elements from previous films.

Fairly mild in tone and riffing - if not quite ripping - off a col-lection of horror classics that includes "The Shining," "Rosemary's Baby" and "Poltergeist," both the fran-chise's premise and its execu-tion nevertheless remain rudi-mentary, with the narrative and character backstories repre-senting more of a sketch than a fully realized vision of the supernatural world that Katie inhabits.

Although Newton and Shively are likable enough in their roles as the sleuthing teens, the other performances remain perfunctory overall. Laptop webcams and camera phones are substituted for the earlier video-surveillance cams, but little has changed visually in the style of the filmmakers' alternation of static and frantic hand-held shots, mixed with a surfeit of distracting closeups.

Asymmetrically framed scenes, staccato editing techniques and oppressive ambient sound (and the ominous lack of a score) are substituted for any real nar-rative development, leaving a plot essentially consisting of a series of setups followed by frightening payoffs. Weak attempts to introduce a smattering of satanic sym-bology are belatedly super-fluous. It's just such lack of creative investment that inevitably leads to further sequels, if a theatrical audi-ence can actually be sus-tained going forward.

"Paranormal Activity 4," a Paramount release, is rated R for language and some vio-lence/terror. Running time: 95 minutes.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 October 2012 06:27