THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
“I still dug it because the simple nature of the format works.”
There comes a point in every franchise when the endless sequels must choose their destiny (sounds much better when read in a Vader voice). On one hand, sequels become so boringly repetitive that they hold as much interest as an empty box of Captain Crunch. They evolve into something horrific, bringing a sad, pathetic shame to the original (looking at you, Good Day to Die Hard).
On the other hand…if done right, sequels somehow top and build upon what came before, a tough act to pull especially in the world of horror where franchises always outstay their welcome. They’re worse than in-laws or mooching friends (or whatever the lame cliché is) because by the time we end up with 34 sequels to the original, not only does the whole thing end up punch line, but it nearly destroys the original’s legacy. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a single horror franchise that didn’t run itself into the ground (please correct me in the Talkback, which I’m sure someone will).
While the kings of slasher appear to be lost in remake purgatory, the Paranormal Activity brand has emerged as the new king, smartly taking over the grizzly hole left behind by the Saw movies. I have no doubt that the producers will milk this franchise until they have to use substitute powder milk because they make these cheap and fast, spitting them out yearly until any dignity left has been decapitated and buried in a cellar a long, long time ago.
So what? Enjoy them because with Paranormal Activity 4, the series still has legs but I fear they might not be sturdy for much longer because no horror series maintains any sort of acceptable level of quality. PA 4, however, hasn’t faded yet as it still manages to invoke great moments despite me knowing EXACTLY where and when every single “jump” would appear. Even with that knowledge, I still dug it because the simple nature of the format works. Ok sure, PA 4 is more of the same with yet another generic family in yet another nice pad, and yet another victim of the “ghost”. But what isn’t repetitive? If you love AC/DC you can probably explain the difference between each and every track. But hate AC/DC, well…shit all sounds the same. Paranormal Activity is no different. For everyone complaining that they expected or wanted something new is…kinda stupid. Don’t buy the next AC/DC album and bitch when that it sounded just like the last 11. Know what you’re gonna get. A slight variation of the exact same concept.
While PA 4 isn’t as good as the original and I’ll still bitch about the movie taking way too long to deliver on the horror, it’s also the series’ shtick. I’d like a little more gore, but waiting for the moment when some sap gets snapped in half gives the movie tension without having to do anything. And while the villain Katie doesn’t exactly rank up there with Hannibal Lecter, I like that she just sorta mopes around. She plays against demented type and helps us all remember that sometimes less is more. Oh, if you’ve followed any of my columns before you’d notice that little kids scare the hell out of me. Make them stare blankly from the background with their little heads tilted to the left. Scariest damn thing ever on film.
At least PA 4 finally explored more about the mythology of the demon (or whatever it is), but it’s time that they stop holding back so much. Let’s give see those witches go wild. Or at least take their tops off. At least with PA 4 we understand the depth of what’s going on. (SPOILER) When the giant gaggle of witches is revealed and they get their pretty blonde virgin, well, goose bumps. It’s some creepy shit knowing that there’s so many more Katie’s out there. Maybe even a Cindy! (END)
If the PA brand wants to continue, I have three simple suggestions. 1) More gore. 2) Stop saving the action for the last 15 minutes. 3) Give some damn answers before no one cares. We know part five is coming soon yet again, and I’m cool with playing the same old found footage game again, but something needs to change. I still dug PA 4, but either this franchise fades away without doing something new or it stops giving the audience blue balls.