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Buffalo Chips – Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 4

Well, here we go again—the groan-inducer heard ‘round the world. 

Just when you thought three was a magic number,
an unwelcome and unnecessary fourth installment to the “redrum” redeeming series
has come to grace us with a lackluster piece of horror flop.

“Paranormal Activity 4,” rated R and released on Oct. 19, proves that in most movie cases, it’s best to quit while you’re ahead.

Basically, the story takes place in 2011 with a new family who gets into trouble as soon as they let the neighbor’s little boy stay with them (it ties in with the predecessors, I promise). Weird things start to happen, the lovely Katie shows up again, so on and so forth. I’m getting franchise fatigue just explaining it.

There’s no denying that this series did something back in 2007 that very few horror movies have been doing recently: actually scaring the pants off the audience. Combining the curiosity of demons and spirits along with the found footage façade sparked a new breed of story telling.

At this point, I can’t tell if Ariel Shulman and Henry Joost, the films’ directors, are cooking up or milking out these movies. Of course, it topped the box office opening weekend, but let’s be real: did its audience truly get its money’s worth? Put it like this—I’m certainly glad I paid matinee price.

The jump factor just wasn’t there. I literally wasn’t the least bit scared, and that was disappointing coming off the third one. The “Paranormal Activity” series has prided itself on excruciating periods of loud silence and the realness of the hand-held camera element. In the first three—especially the third with the oscillating fan—the directors were absolute geniuses and raised the bar for each one.

The only new aspects to speak of were the additions of Skype chat and using the Kinect sensor at night, bringing the films finally into the present, but even then I wasn’t as impressed. The performances actually weren’t half bad. The characters Alex and Ben have great on-screen chemistry, and the little boys who play Wyatt and Robbie are delightfully creepy in the right ways.

I know it’s cinematic suicide—but customary—to make sequels/prequels when a production company strikes gold in a movie, but the “Paranormal Activity” franchise didn’t do so shabby—until now. I’ll even admit that I rolled my eyes at the thought of a third installment, but, boy, was I wrong. The third movie scared the absolute mess out of me, and it mentally screwed me up for a good week. I still can’t get the sight of Grandma and her “bridge club” racing at the camera out of my head.

I honestly thought the entire story—aside from the ambiguous whereabouts of Katie and Hunter—was executed well in the triadic form. Granted, there were a lot of unanswered questions, but what scary movie doesn’t leave you with the subconscious “and then what?”

As much as I hate on this one, I am interested to see where they can take a fifth movie. The ending to this installment, of course, left plenty of wiggle room to experiment, and if they play their cards right, I feel like the directors could really go out with a bang—or a fizzle, give or take.

If you’re not a fan of the franchise, I implore you—I beg of you—turn back while you still can. Unfortunately for me, I’m too invested in the series, and if you are as well, you do need to see it. It was essentially a prologue for a fifth—I know, gag me—that will be released next Halloween. Please, God, let this series rest in pieces after that.

I’ve got to give this flick a two out of five chips. If you’re looking for a good scare, this is not—repeat—not the flick for you. The last five minutes or so are the most thrilling of the whole movie, if you can make it that long without leaving.

Love it or hate it, but I do think there is at least one thing we can all agree on this fine Halloween season: thank God there’s no more Saw movies.

Taylor Griffin

Managing Editor

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