Taking into account 2008’s fresh take on the found footage genre, Paranormal Activity was budgeted at an estimated $15,000 and starred actors who were waiting tables for a living, they surely didn’t expect that four years later a fourth instalment would be even imagined, let alone released to audiences nationwide. Not even the maestro of film Steven Spielberg, who passed judgment to the makers of PA to tweak the ending and present a more open-ended finale rather than the initial closing scenes, would have expected the series to stretch this far. This is a clear indication as any that you don’t need to be Christopher Nolan or a Marvel superhero to be a success.
If you want clarity then scribble your questions on a postcard and send to directing duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who have experience in the found footage field with the successful Catfish and the third Paranormal Activity entry in the series. The directors return for a fourth slice of horror which unlike PA3’s discovery of Katie’s (Katie Featherson) origins as a prequel is a direct sequel to PA2. It is a firm tip of the hat to the directors for tinkering with different layers to the story of Katie and the demonic supernatural terrors which cause strange events in the household of a young family in the latest film.
Set five years after Katie disappears with Hunter (now named Robbie), Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her idiotic boyfriend Ben (Matt Shivley) begin to get suspicious of a mysterious woman and child who move across the road. When the woman becomes ill and is hospitalised, Robbie is taken in by the family. It is from here on in that it is business as usual in the Paranormal Activity world that has collectively grossed just short of $500 million worldwide – not bad considering the original was shot in the director’s own home!
To the keen eye of the franchise, yes things effectively go bump in the night, but PA4 is nothing that audiences haven’t (for the most part) seen before. Shadows appear out of nowhere, creaky floorboards, makeshift camera positioning around the house and the signatory dragging out of bed sequence. On the flip side of the coin, there is fresh material to maintain the bar of the series. Scenes are captured using night vision which features infrared tracking dots produced by the X-Box which leaves a creepy and somewhat restricted view of the action. In keeping up with fresh faced audiences, this poses as an effective and at times terrifying perspective.
But with the checklist of boo moments and a flutter of welcome additions, that hasn’t stopped a fifth entry to the series already being penned in for Halloween 2013. Similar to the success of the Saw franchise, the Paranormal Activity vehicle could well run for a few more years yet.