Director Gregory Plotkin
Starring Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Dan Gill, Ivy George, Olivia Taylor Dudley
Screenplay Jason Harry Pagan, Andrew Deutschman, Adam Robitel, Gavin Heffernan
When viewing the Paranormal Activity series, one gets the indelible feeling of disintegration and waning interest by the film makers themselves. For the first two films especially, this was not the case. The viewer is brought in through a long, patient lens and a back story that explains adequately the reasons why any man might become obsessed with filming events instead of actually living them. Sometimes we see new technologies that allow more freedom to move while events still occur. While not as involved, there is still enough there to push the viewer through the story.
The challenge facing the creators of the final Paranormal Activity film is in binding together the seeming dead-end presented by the series low point in its 3rd film to the more meandering 4th and 5th installments and somehow making it all seem both unique and conclusive. In this effort, we get a prologue that is actually a coda to the 3rd film. Soon after all non-consenting adults are dispatched, Grandma Lois introduces Katie and Kristie to a new character, whose purpose seems to be bound to exposition. He explains that Katie is going to be the guardian of Kristie’s boy child, Hunter. His voice shows up a little later for a relevant moment. Essentially, he is there to tell you points we saw in the earlier films: points hammered repeatedly later. The kids, Hunter and the new family’s little girl Leila, are the Key Master and Gatekeeper. For those three of you who did not see Ghostbusters, they are harbingers of doom when their blood combines.
Why is it demons are so hell-bent on returning to corporeal form? Most plots involving demons always investing that the key to eternal life is in being brought back to a form that died in the first place. Why not stay looking like the album cover for Lisa Gerrard’s Mirror Pool? They always seem to be kicking ass and hanging around in that form. Alas, we are treated to this well trodden path after so many parts teasing something bigger and better.
There is innovation. An ancient camera appearing out of nowhere that took a box of videos seen earlier. Why is the family fascinated with filming now? The writers don’t really care. They just stick a camera on the head of the man of the house so he can tell his wife to get the kid out of the grips of the monster while he keeps rolling. Because footage of the fairer half and your helpless child will really help when trying to explain why you didn’t help them out to anyone curious as to why they disappeared through the hole in the wall.
Gone from this film is any real sense the characters are genuinely fascinated by the events. They see something shiny, show it to a couple of people and then – squirrel – they are on to the next flashy thing. Sure, books are splayed about so others can recite things discovered off camera, but none of the events build off the previous like they do in the first two films. It’s a hodge podge with the hopes that the audience can make the leaps other characters made before. The whole thing really just left me hoping that the recently dumped brother-in-law (Murray) would hook up with his sister in law’s friend (Dudley) just so something would happen.
Does this all make sense to the viewer? Yes, but in the dumbest way possible. The effect is serving the bones of the last 6 Thanksgiving Turkeys and telling the guests to chow down. Don’t worry, though, there will always be plenty of stuffing to go around.
(*1/2 out of *****)