Saturday, 3 November 2012
Review : Paranormal Lack of Activity 4 (2012)
Authors Note : First of all, lemme just say HAPPY HALLOWEEN to everyone!
Sorry it's so belated, but my Internet was down for an extended period of time, and unfortunately, it happened just as our fave time of year came calling. So be it, gotta take the rough with the smooth, man. I did manage to watch a ridiculous amount of Horror during the season, as is my duty and my passion, and have a tidy little backlog of films to set about reviewing, (including, of course, THE WALKING DEAD S3E3). Bear with me folks. Now, onto the first of this months reviews....
Oh, and this review/rant will feature some spoilers, as its impossible to detail the films myriad flaws without exploring some of the plots more ridiculous twists. I'll keep the spoilers to a minimum, guys, although there's really nothing to spoil.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, should you not already be aware of this, is a full-tilt disaster. I'll just throw that out there right off the bat for anyone who may be about to make the dire mistake of paying to see this nonsense. I'll give my reasons why its such a mess in due time, but in the slim chance your glancing at this review just as your putting on your jacket and heading for the door; mark my words.....do NOT pay to see this thing.
Buy something nice for your better half. Buy some Scotch and drink yourself good-looking. Hell, give your money to that homeless fella with the winning smile outside your local cornershop. I guarantee you'll feel better about yourself for doing it, and he deserves it a fuck-sight more than the makers of this franchise killer, even if he is sniffing bath-salts.
Speaking of the franchise; I'm a fan, by the way...
The first one scared the living daylights out of me, (despite the awful alterations made to its final moments), and as a standalone film, it was very satisfying. Its one of the few films in a long time that stayed with me long after its conclusion. It still gives me the fear when I watch it alone. Its potent, dread-filled and downright unsettling.
The second was really just more of the same, yet with a wider scope. It worked, not least in its addition of a newborn child into the mix. It was slow, but it was powerful.
The third shocked me, and gave the series a much needed kick in the nuts. It opened up the world more, and gave all those who bemoaned the first two films slower pacing, something to smile about. Its many peoples favourite. Me, I'll take the first one any day of the week, but each to their own...
Now, onto four.
I must admit, I went into this one with very low expectations. I'd read some reviews, and the general consensus was that this franchise had fallen into unworthy hands. I expected a cash-grab. Perhaps a somewhat tired retread of previous glories....despite all this, I had to see it for myself, (as I'm sure many of you will, too), but for once, I wish I'd listened to the masses. This was much worse than I could have imagined. It was almost unwatchable.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 begins with a short flashback to the events of part 2, when a demon-possessed Katie got a little kill-happy and abducted her nephew. In film 3, a prequel, we unearthed a few mysteries about what this demon was all about, so it should be instantly engaging now that we finally get to return to the present, and learn what has become of baby Hunter and his hellish nanny...
It's around five years later, and we're introduced to a new family, who just happen to live across the street from Katie, (what has she been doing all this time? Is she still possessed? Is she holding down a fucking job?), and her 'son', now known as Robbie. When Katie suddenly takes ill, our new family decide to take in her creepy-ass kid, (despite not knowing Katie OR the goddam kid...who are these people?), and strange shit immediatly starts to happen as Robbie befriends their own son. The daughter of the family and her perma-horny boyfriend decide to record all the 'activity' via laptops, in an attempt to get to the bottom of these strange events. Cue the same old shit minus the tension, dread, anticipation or intelligence of the previous three films.
It takes almost an hour before we get to ANY of the spooky stuff, (other than some old-hat, creepy kid stuff that's not even close to engaging), and when we do, its all the tricks we've seen before, only done so much better in the past. If the blueprint for a sequel is 'bigger/bolder/better' then the folks behind this soulless money-monster must have missed the memo. Everything here is small scale. Not subtle, mind you, just small scale and poorly handled.
Remember that scene in film 3 where everything in the kitchen clashes to the floor at once, propelling you from your seat? You got a sense of the demons malice, right? Not to mention one hell of a fright. Here, we have a knife. Just one. It floats to the ceiling, where it then apparently stays for a day or so, before dropping again. (is the demon holding it up there for some reason?) Thing is, the idea of this knife hanging over the families collective heads could have been a real crowd-pleaser and acted as a fine metaphor for the events unfolding. It could have made for a very tense setpiece. Instead, the knife floats up to the roof, only to eventually plunge back down and MISS the character its (perhaps) aiming for. The scene goes nowhere. This is all the more infuriating when you come to realise later on that all the kills are performed in the exact same manner asin the previous movies. They could have went someplace new with this. Maybe go in an OMEN direction, with a freak accident leading to paranioa, mistrust and friction within the family unit. But no, the fucking knife just falls back down. Wow, this demon is such a badass....
I mentioned that it takes more than half the movie before the ghostly goings on really begin, but rest assured, before that point, you WILL sit watching static camera's for full minutes at a time, only to have either a loud bang or a cat jump at the screen, (yes, a fucking cat...thats how far gone down the plughole we are here, kids). Its all as predictable and boring as hell, and when the demon finally decides to get off his lazy ass and get down to some haunting, nothing has any significance. He levitates a girl from the bed, then sets her back down while she sleeps...why? He floats that fucking knife then drops it in front of the Dad instead of killing him...why? He plays (Kinect?), with the creepy children instead of doing fulfilling his mission of claiming Hunters soul....why?
Its all just filler to keep us watching as we crawl on bloodied knees, painfully and agonsingly towards the conclusion, which is no conclusion at all. Any questions that may have arisen from previous films are either swept aside or outright ignored in favour of massive plot-holes. The poster for this fucker claimed, 'All the activity has led to this..' Led to what?! Nothing fucking happens!
Its not until the last five minutes that we get anything worth chewing on, and just as it starts to look like this may be going somewhere, it ends. No conclusion, no thrills. Maybe sixty seconds of strange unexplained shit thats supposed to make up for the 88 minutes of nothing we've just been subjected to. Thanks for that.
The film does try to spice things up with the introduction of Xbox Kinect, (I shit you not). We come to learn the admittedly cool fact that if you look at Kinect through night vision, you can see the thousands of laser markers/motion detectors, (or whatever), that pick up the movement of the person playing. Of course, this is gonna be used to show us the demon right. Could be very cool, (at least its something new), but what we get instead of a horrifying outline of some unthinkable devil, is countless shots of a room covered in laser-dots, and finally, inexplicably, what appears to be the ghost of a child.
Hold on, arent we supposed to be dealing with a cloven-hooved demon here? Is our demon pal now in child form? Can he shapeshift? I guess so, but no ones fucking clue-ing me in, so I'll just assume this is thoughtless bullshit, shall I? Also, why is the Kinect left on for two weeks straight without someone, a parent perhaps, yelling at the kids to stop wasting fucking electricity. We're in economic freefall here, children...turn your goddam console off already!
Lets not forget, while all this dumb shit is going down, our intrepid leads are filming and recording EVERYTHING via a collection of laptops, yet after the first two nights, they NEVER go back to examine the footage. Had they done so, they would have found ghost boys, floating knives, moving chairs, asshole cats, and oh yeah, ONE OF THEM LEVITATING IN THEIR SLEEP! Might have been a good idea to actually look at the footage you filmed, you MTV-zombified clowns! Sherlock Holmes these kids are not.
In PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, plot-hole and narrative inconstistancy reign supreme. Without giving a great deal way, there are some plot twists concerning the two young boys that make no sense at all in the grand scheme of things
In all honesty, those two teens who take centre stage are the only halfway decent thing in this damn film. They have nothing to work with, yet somehow they remain likable, (despite their Bush-level idiocy). The boy in particular is pretty funny. Amazingly though, I didn't go to see this to get in on some teen hijinks. I came to see a demon kicking balls. I came to piece together the mystery that the previous films set up so well. I came to be scared.
And thats the crucial failing of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4....its just not scary. More than that, its downright boring, and very difficult to sit through, even at 88 minutes. It may seem a little harsh of a tad too nitpicky to tear a film apart in this manner, but you know what....people are paying to see this dreck, and they deserve better. The pre-teens who think this is what horror is all about need to be enlightened, and garbage like this only hinders the cause. And all to make some easy money.
This is as souless and as miserable as any horror film I've come across in recent memory. It lacks any spark of intrigue, originality or intellect, and it may well have killed a much-loved franchise that, (while I believe should have ended at three), could have pushed the boat out in fun new ways as current technology advances. There is no narrative drive, no momentum, nothing to hold onto or empathise with, no build-up, no answers to the pertinent questions, and absolutly none of the magic or imagination that elevated the previous three films to 'Halloween Tradition' status.
For many horror fans, watching PA4 is no less soul-raping than the trauma a Star Wars fan felt when they first witnessed the prequel trilogy. This is a monumental fuck-up and a huge step back for mainstream genre cinema. And you know what, I have a cat at home, and when the little furry bastard jumps on my laptop, I don't find it in any way entertaining. In fact, it pissed me off. Now WHY would I wanna pay for it?!
Fuck this movie.
1 Xbox Product-Placement out of 10