Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman also directed the chilling documentary, Catfish.
Another Halloween means another year of the next attempt at getting audiences too scared to breathe. Most movies around this time go as low as the bar can go to get big results, as, sadly, most audiences will go see any movie deemed as "terrifying" when the season approves it. Then we have the horror movies that genuinely attempt to terrify audiences with new methods of nightmare-inducing fears. As of last year, Paranormal Activity was one of the few series that I felt continuously growing in not only terror but in filmmaking. The first Activity was, regardless of how you felt about the film, immediately held as a classic. Having visited a form of rare filmmaking (at the time), Oren Peli created a phenomenon that took theaters by storm. Soon after we were given Paranormal Activity 2, which was met with good critical acclaim and even better box office numbers. Once Paranormal Activity 3 hit theaters, it had become clear that Peli hd created something he had no intention on letting go of. Thankfully, his hand in the project is stronger than most films produced by their original creator. This series became a household name for horror and at such a simple and effective style, it's not difficult to see why stuios put such strong faith in them. So how strong of a series can Paranormal Activity prove to be? With the fourth addition being released, Peli and Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (P.A 3) put the fate of the series in the hands of the audience. But how will they take to it?
****** This should go without saying, but heavy spoilers for the first three Paranormal Activity films follow the asterisks. *********
As children, Katie (Katie Featherston) and her sister, Christy, were terrorized by an unknown demon given the name Toby. The third Paranormal entry revealed that their grandmother had struck a deal with the devil that would force her to sacrifice her family's first born son. After the (demon-caused) death of her parents, Katie grew up with a blind eye to the evil nature of her grandmother, finding the hauntings to be eerie and unexplainable. Katie then finds herself at the mercy of Toby again as she unknowingly murders her longterm boyfriend and disappears into the dark roads of California, only to turn up at Christy's house and kidnap her son, Hunter, murdering anyone standing in her way. Now, It's been five years since Katie and Hunter have been seen. Meanwhile, fifteen year old Alex (Kathryn Newton) is attempting to protect her younger brother, Wyatt, from her parent's dysfunctional marriage, all while the new neighbor across the street is rushed to the hospital, forcing Alex's family to take in the victim's young son, Robbie. Having a reputation for roaming around town unaccompanied, Robbie begins to stir trouble within the household, including standing off to authority and teaching the impressionable Wyatt to rebel against anyone he so chooses. Alex and her tech-sauvy boyfriend, Ben (Matt Shively), begin to record the activities around the house and begin to realize there's more to Robbie than a stand out rebel. The question is, though, who exactly is he?
From the first Activity to the third, I've formed a strong attachment to the Paranormal series and have found each one to be as enjoyable, if not more, than the last. In this sense, the fourth and newest installment has won me over. Hanging on to the same directors as the previous project, Paramount played their cards right by having Joost and Schulman repeat their inventive and inspired style of terror, fused with heavy mythology of the characters and their purpose. By Paranormal Activity 3, audiences spoke out against the heavy mythology, claiming it took too much attention away from the scares. The series has flourished with this focus, however, allowing it to become more than another fright flick with gusto. The mythos of this demon, Toby, allows audiences to look as far back as thirty years from the fourth installment and wonder what all has happened between then and now. Presenting this idea has not only helped the series stay alive but alos grow into a larger phenomenon than it previously was.
Paranormal Activity 4 kicks things back into high (tech) gear by fast forwarding almost thirty years than the last installment left off by introducing new recording tools like Skype and Xbox Kinect. It's obvious that a heavy focus for Joost and Schulman was to find new ways to capture creepy footage throughout the house. Given their oscillating fan-camera hybrid in the third Activity and their Kinect movement detector in the new installment, they both have an impressive talent for these styles and were well-chosen for the part. Seeing all the new ways to find out what goes bump in the dark (and some times the day) makes the trip worth it in general. Thankfully, Joost and Schulman give more to desire than just cool gadgets.
Starting off with a rather long introduction to each character, PA4 stumbles before it's given a chance to truly walk. However, once Ben enters the picture, begins to crack jokes and introduce cool ways to film almost every angle of the house, things begin to pick back up to familiar Activity nature. Towards the middle, the characters begin piecing things together which makes things interesting as most characters at this point are still clueless as to what is happening to their loved ones. But this is all build up to one hell of a knock-out ending that will surely leave audiences absolutely breathless. Much like the PA3 finale, Joost and Schulman prove they know exactly when to unleash hell and unleash it hard. PA4 may waver a bit in the beginning but the 2nd portion of the story continues to build into a wonderfully large yet tightly knit twist that should make any horror fan shiver.
The Paranormal Activity series has been called one that caters and specifically grows to the die hard fans. Having sat next to a man, who could lean either way in devotion to the series, shriek and admit sheer terror, I'm under the impression that Activity has plenty of power to bring in more fans and will continue to do so as the series inevitably grows in installments. Perhaps the series hasn't covered much ground in the sense of answering every question with finaity, but without a doubt, Peli is enjoying basking in the mystery and terror and goes to great length to make sure audiences feel the same. For any fan of the previous installments, Paranormal Activity 4 has everything you would want, including a subtle yet explosive twist that few will see coming.