Let’s Watch The Paranormal Activity Franchise: Part 4
Every Halloween, I always make sure to watch specific horror films: ‘Saw’, ‘Trick ‘r’ Treat’, ‘Jeepers Creepers’ and ‘Tusk’ are all watched every year to the point where I probably know the script by heart. However, I wanted to do something different this year, and step out of my comfort zone a bit.
One of the horror subgenres that I dislike the most are Possession films. Films like ‘Devil’s Due’, ‘Amityville Horror’ and ‘The Last Exorcism’ never seem to hold my interest, and even a classic like ‘The Exorcist’ took me a few days to finish because I kept losing interest. So, I want to give myself a challenge: at the end of each week this month, starting today, I will be watching all of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ films, with the last four acting as a double upload on the last two weeks of October.
‘Paranormal Activity 4’ was released in 2011 and takes place in the same year. After a mysterious woman and her adopted son move opposite Alex, strange things start to happen in her family’s household after they look after the son for a few days.
After feeling extremely underwhelmed by Part 2 and 3, this entry was well needed. This continues the story left off from Part 2 and shows us what happened to Hunter and Katie. Hunter was adopted in the new family that the film focuses on, and renamed Wyatt, while Katie lives opposite them and has a son called Robbie. Part 4 even starts with the ending to the second film, a detail which seemed a little strange. However, if someone was watching this separately, and not back-to-back like I am, then this prologue makes sense. At the same time, the issue would’ve been resolved by completely erasing Part 3 altogether like previously mentioned in my last review.
This film was also a welcome addition: the acting and characters were a lot more charming and likable. Alex (played by Kathryn Newton – Detective Pikachu) and her family seem like a typical family who are unfortunate enough to get involved in the supernatural encounters that the franchise brings. Newton carries the film comfortably too and has a good relationship with her adopted brother Wyatt, which is how the exposition is given to its audience. The dialogue and exposition never felt forced; the conversations felt natural, even if the subject matter of those conversations would delve into the unnatural. The child actors are also fantastic. This was not mentioned in the previous review because, while the acting was fine, it was ultimately forgettable. However, in this case, the spotlight shines on Brady Allen, who plays Robbie. Robbie is the definition of the creepy child cliché in horror films, and Allen’s performance is fantastic as the quiet adopted son of Katie Featherston. The only issue is that Robbie seems to act as a red herring; the audience are led to believe that Robbie is Hunter, the child who was kidnapped in the second film. However, this is proven false as it is revealed that Wyatt is actually Hunter.
The story structure is slightly different than the previous entries; the security camera-style sequences don’t start until 30-40 minutes into the film, meaning that the first act is essentially introductions to the characters, a mystery subplot revolving around Robbie and his friend Toby (yes, the demon is still called Toby), and why strange things have started to occur in Alex’s house the second her family take care of Robbie. This is also the first film in which we’re following a family that has no relation to Katie Featherston which was a momentary breath of fresh air. However, the scares were problematic, with only two in particular standing out. The film uses volume increases and fake jump scares to scare its audience, which becomes frustrating very quickly. An example of this is when Alex is outside and it’s quiet then, when she turns round, someone’s right in front of her and speaks loudly to her. It’s a cheap tactic that I didn’t expect to see in the franchise, and it was tiresome to see. While the previous film didn’t have many jump scares, they were effective when they did occur and they gave the audience something interesting to look at, as well as being shocking or scary at the same time.
However, the scenes that stood out is when Wyatt is cycling round the kitchen and a chair suddenly moves in front of him, blocking his pathway. He then changes direction, moving out of camera view, and the sound of another chair moving is heard. This is simple but extremely effective, since no other sound appears, making the scene tense. It also lets the audience’ imagination run wild as they try to fill in the gaps, visually, of what Wyatt’s reaction or next move could be. Another scene that was effective was when Alex, Wyatt and Alex’s friend Ben use the Xbox Kinect and link it up to the camera’s night vision to create tracking dots in the shot. This stood out, not because of any scares, but because this is the best, but also most blatant, use of product placement I’ve ever seen. The best use of product placement is when it’s blended into its environment seamlessly due to it being part of the story.
Overall, ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ is a welcome improvement after the two previous disappointing entries. The new set of characters are, for the most part, charming and likable as well as being a welcome relief, even if it’s short-lived. However, while the film is tense, and the plot progression is interesting, the fake jump scare tactics that are used are frustrating and annoying, which is a shame.
Apologies that the quote section of this article did not appear for Part 2 and 3; I didn’t have much to say, or I felt that anything I did say wasn’t anything worth mentioning here. However, here are two notable quotes that I did want to place a spotlight on:
-At the 49:40 mark: (Wyatt says ‘he looks like his mum’ after meeting Katie, Robbie’s mum): ‘oooh no, Don’t like that! They’re both demons!’
-At the 1:18:30 mark: (Ben pulls the laptop lid down and Katie is behind him): ‘OH NO! LOOK BEHIND YOU!’
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