The teaser for Paranormal Activity 4 hit the web earlier this week, and as expected the reaction breaks across two lines. There’s the camp that’s excited for the next installment and the one that’s asking “This shit again?”
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman return for a second go-round. They found ways to breathe fresh life into the series and the boring misfire of part two with innovations such as a the camcorder strapped to an oscillating fan, but the last act took a turn towards the ridiculous. What’s different about this installment is it brings the action back to the present day after moving backwards for parts two and three in order to delve into the mythology of the series. I half expected the movies to continue to travel backwards in time until part eight capped the series off with a rousing recreation of a 1920s silent movie.
The teaser introduces Skype chats to the mix (an element used for a tremendous jolt in The Pact) and would appear to focus on a teenaged girl reacting to the creepy neighbors that just moved next door. Who knows if this will be the case when the film hits in October, as trailers for previous films often contain footage unused in the final cut.Is there anything new to say here? When the first Paranormal Activity debuted in 2009, there were not any people more gaga over it than me. It broke the stranglehold that Saw and its torture porn followers held over the horror box office at the time by putting the emphasis on atmosphere and terrific sound design rather than zooming in on blades hacking in to trussed up flesh with gory realism. It breathed fresh life into the genre even as it tackled the age old story of the haunted house. The found footage technique hadn’t been overused at that point, and Oren Peli’s insistence to not remake his film with recognizable actors paid huge dividends as audiences found it easy to put themselves in the place of the anonymous Katie and Micah.
Four installments later and the Paranormal Activity series feels every bit the assembly line product Saw was before it minus the gristle. Each installment makes money hand over fist, with the last one recouping its budget tenfold in its first three days, giving Paramount no motivation to slow down the gravy train or deviate from the formula. After the first film exploded, Paramount hinted it would use the Insurge imprint to fund more micro budget horror films with the plan of giving them a decent theatrical release. It could have been a win-win for the studio and audiences alike. At a million bucks and change a picture, Paramount could see a tidy profit for its investment and genre fans would see an influx of original horror in theaters. Thus far, we’ve only seen the steaming hunk of excrement The Devil Inside in cinemas while Australian import The Loved ones got tagged with the stupid TUGG experiment before getting slated for a DVD dump this September.So how about it? Are you excited about the next installment or approaching it with the same level of cynicism as I am?