Paranormal Activity 4

PIERS RILEY-SMITH wishes he’d seen Madagascar 3 instead.

ben stiller Halloween hand held camera Madagascar 3 Nottingham Cinema Paranormal Activity 4

My heart sank when the opening scene of Paranormal Activity 4 did not include an animated animal featuring Ben Stiller’s voice.

Indeed, after reading about the hilarious mix up in a Nottingham Cinema, I had genuinely hoped that Madagascar 3 would be mistakenly shown in Cambridge too. Alas, it was not to be.

You see ever since a harrowing experience with The Blair Witch Project when I was much younger, I have been unable to sit through a jerky ‘handheld camera’ style of film without wanting to cry, scream and/or run.  Fortunately – though I had prepared myself to do all of the above – Paranormal Activity 4 actually made for relatively calm viewing.

Yes, it had all the tropes of horror cinema that we love: a ditzy blonde American girl with no common sense and her “will they, won’t they” boyfriend; magical forces that slam doors, levitate girls and possess people; and a creepy child who can turn off lights with his mind (making him seem more like a hard-line environmentalist then a demonic force).

But we have seen all of these themes repeated ad nauseum in all the other Paranormal films and this one fails to reuse them in an imaginative way. Sadly, other then some clever scenes with the use of a web cam (NEVER Skype at night), and an innovative use of the Xbox Kinect, this film just seems to wind its way dejectedly towards the climax. From the start, it is also fairly obvious where the film is heading – except, of course, to the characters themselves.

I agree a horror film does not require an Oscar winning screenplay, but in order to merit the ticket price it at least has to provide some genuinely frightening moments, which PA4 does not.  On the plus side, there is at least some continuity with the previous films; Katie returns in her possessed guise for example and the cult from the third film also pops up again. But if you are not a die-hard Paranormal Activity fan then there is no point going to see this film.

Moreover, if you want a good “handheld camera film” then the fantastic Spanish REC or even the original Paranormal Activity would serve you much better than, what is essentially, a tired formula that has been slightly re-tooled to give you a rather mild scare (think the Simpsons’ Halloween Special).

That is the fundamental problem with this film: it is not clever, scary or interesting enough to stand out in what is already an over congested genre. Rather then the fear fest I had been expecting, all I felt was something more akin to boredom. On leaving the cinema though, I did do the one thing I had wanted to do in the first place.

I bought a ticket for Madagascar 3.