Sunday, February 3, 2013

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) Might As Well Finish It Out

I always have some high hopes for stories that play out a mythology.  But with those high hopes comes a caveat:  if you're building a mythology, you best back it up.

I've been mostly pleasantly surprised by the Paranormal Activity franchise, and I can certainly appreciate telling captivating stories on a shoestring budget.  But there's a little matter of running out of steam, reaching that point where the story strains to be told instead of simply falling into place.  As much as I hoped Paranormal Activity 4 would wrap up the mythology of the demon-plagued sisters, it sort of just peeked in to show what happened to one loose thread while not really answering much of anything else.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schuman (who did Paranormal Activity 3 and Catfish) and written by Christopher Landon based on a story by Chad Feehan, Paranormal 4 intends to wrap up the story began with poor, possessed Katie (Katie Featherston).  We know that she's disappeared along with her nephew, Hunter, leaving a trail of bodies and mystery in her wake.  In this fourth installment, a strange young boy named Robbie (Brady Allen) wanders over to the featured family's house after his mother goes to the hospital.  He's an odd duck, making the daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her best friend Ben (Matt Shively) suspicious, especially since he takes an interest in Alex's adopted younger brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp).  Robbie stays with the family for a while, and of course, strange things begin to happen.  Weird gatherings happen at the house across the street and the family's computers - which Ben has rigged to record video 24/7 - pick up some really bizarre things.  Most aren't too frightening, to be honest, but I really, really liked the use of the night vision camera along with the Xbox Kinect, which casts a sea of small dots over everything in the room.  There is a sequence late in the film where that really looks tremendous.  Things get really crazy when Robbie's mom re-appears, and they mythology gets tied together somewhat.  It hurtles toward a weird, tragic ending that frankly left me wanting a little more story.

That's not to say there wasn't anything to like.  Newton and Shively were natural, believable,and likable as the amateur detectives.  They both hit home runs in terms of creating characters with whom a viewer could identify.  A couple instances during the climactic chase at the end were really nice, and as I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the use of the Kinect as a new visual device.  Maybe others got more out of the film than I did, and I hope that's the case.  For me, personally, I wanted more in the way of what the demon's endgame was.  I assume it wants the world, or does it just want to be a nasty little menace?  I don't always need to be led around by the nose, but I would've enjoyed more direction in the mythology.

It wasn't altogether horrible, but when compared to the other films in the series - which I enjoyed - it fell a bit short.  But hey, not every franchise can be perfect.

And now I'm going to go play some Kinect with my invisible friend, who always wins at Fruit Ninja...