Found Footage Fourth Part Partly Functional
DIRECTED BY HENRY JOOST, ARIEL SCHULMAN/2012
Paranormal Activity 4 is not a great movie. It’s possibly not even a good movie. But this series has value, which automatically puts it above the Saw movies and many other horror series. The plot is stretched, the premise is silly and the characters are disposable, although Kathryn Newton gives a much stronger performance in the lead role than necessary; but the movie still got me.
The story is pointless. Did you see Paranormal Activity 2? Great. That happened across the street from the family in Paranormal Activity 4. And whatever made everyone die in part 2 walked across the street and now we begin part 4. Why is everyone still filming? There’s no reason. A big complaint about this series, and other found footage movies, is it doesn’t make sense why people are filming. But without the filming there is no movie. So now because of the complaining we get long, distracting expositional conversations about why it’s necessary to film. So thanks for that, people on the IMDb chatboards.
If you see these movies, you are going to have to sit through some very bad parts. But think of it like a roller coaster. The line is long, it’s hot outside, the people behind you are annoying, but once you get to the actual ride, even if it’s only a fraction of the time you spent of the day, it was worth it.
Now forgot all that negative stuff, which admittedly is 90% of the movie. Focus on the value. The value the movie has comes with what it does to you as a viewer. These movies keep going back to the same shot, where a camera is still and it’s filming. And several things are happening at once. You have a fan to the lower left corner; an open door to the upper right corner; a character in the bottom of the screen: a mirror in the background, which then gives you the view of the fourth wall and the camera. This shot I will never get enough of. It’s exhilarating. You are truly a voyeur at that moment. There could be a crowded theater and everyone is looking at something different. And you have a bomb. Not a real bomb, but an Alfred Hitchcock bomb. Hitchcock once said that if you have two men sitting at a table talking about baseball and a bomb goes off, you startle the audience and it lasts fifteen seconds. But if you show a bomb under the table that will go off in five minutes and then show the same men having the same conversation, the audience will scream for them to stop talking about baseball and run. That is what these scenes do. The bomb is the demon in the house. The conversation is replaced by the filming, but it has the same effect. It works. It’s terrifying. And it saves this movie/series.
In Michael Haneke’s Cache (if you haven’t seen Cache, stop reading and go watch. If you have, stop reading and go watch it again. OK, everyone back?), a French family is mailed videos of their house that are being recorded every day by an anonymous source. They (and the viewer) watch the videos to try to figure out why. Now Cache in every way is a better movie than the Paranormals. It’s more important, more is at stake, and the plot is infinitely more engaging, but the effect is the same. You think you may have seen something to the left; maybe to the right. Was that something in the corner? Was that nothing? Did you see that? This gives you the closest that a movie can come to subjective viewing. Not morally subjective, but literally visually subjective. Paranormal 4 even adds more than its predecessors. In one of the evening scenes I saw something floating to the right. I turned to the person next to me and asked if they saw it…they hadn’t I may have been the only one in the theater who did, and if that is not a power of filmmaking, I don’t know what is.
So take in mind everything. If you see these movies, you are going to have to sit through some very bad parts. But think of it like a roller coaster. The line is long, it’s hot outside, the people behind you are annoying, but once you get to the actual ride, even if it’s only a fraction of the time you spent of the day, it was worth it. So take the good and the bad of what I’m saying, and decide if you want to see it. I can’t exactly recommend the movie, but it falls in that space between recommending it and defending it.