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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Paranormal Activity 4 (Release Date: 10-19-2012)

        Something goes bump in the night in the land of the upper-middle class. A nuclear family, varying degrees of concerned, decides to conduct their own investigation, planting hidden cameras throughout their luxurious homes. These devises catch some negligible results at first, but escalate in oddity until ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!!! Heard that one before? The Paranormal Activity series has become a Halloween mainstay, rinsing and repeating the same basic product, save a few minor tweaks. That being said, any review of a PA flick should only really be judged within the series's set parameters, and against one another. Those who like the franchise won't need my review to be down for another spin, whereas those immune to its chills will already stay at home. The only Paranormal Activity 4 review worth writing is one addressed at those open to the premise, and are mostly curious about the execution.     

      So, is the most recent found-footage entry as hair-raising as the ones that came before it? In a word, no, but that doesn't make PA4 a lame duck altogether. Yes, many of the jump-inducing moments play like watered-down rehashes of ones that took place in the first three, and the only scares with any sense of originality feel slight compared to the best of the series. But what the latest entry has going for it is humor, always an odd and invigorating pillar for the horror genre to lean on, interacting with its viewers at many turns. None of the others have felt quite so aware of their massive audience, and their specific expectations, tossing out red herrings left and right, and even nodding to a few iconic moments in the history of horror. Suffice to say, Paranormal Activity 4 won't stay with you after the credits roll like its forbearers, but the way that it mixes occasional scares with full scoops of self-awareness is pretty fun while it lasts, especially in a packed theater.

        Horror movies are almost always an art of repetition. As lampooned earlier this year in Cabin in the Woods (and before by Scream and others), fright flicks tend to follow a certain rhetoric, mimicking moves and beats from their forbearers. The trend is then compounded by the fact that no genre is more in love with sequels, churning out endless revisitations to Jason, Freddy, Michael, and Jigsaw. In other words, you generally know exactly what your ten bucks will get you with the purchase of a ticket. That being said, those who just like the, 'Paranormal Activity thing,' are likely to dig another trip on the same ride. That's how it worked for me, and even if the literal scares are starting to diminish, the PA experience is still a fun one, built on a foundation of clever cinematic gamesmanship, and best enjoyed in big, loud audiences. A bit more originality would be appreciated, but as a goofy yearly tradition, I'm primarily on the team of both this franchise, and this movie.

Grade: B-

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