, Port Arthur, Texas


October 19, 2012

We’ve seen this ‘Activity’ before

— I was thrilled when I watched the original “Paranormal Activity” movie four years ago at a late night screening. That film was a creative and creepy way to scare an audience without having to resort to stereotypical Hollywood gimmicks. I felt the same way about the first “Saw” and “Blair Witch Project” movies as well, and was disappointed when their inevitable sequels became increasingly familiar and the scare tactics got stale.

This week sees the release of “Paranormal Activity 4,” and sadly, that franchise seems to be following in the same pattern of rehashing old gimmicks and opting for cheesy scare tactics at the expense of more creative ways to frighten us. I suppose that a young adult audience looking to indulge in what has become a Halloween tradition will still enjoy the film, but genuine horror fans will be disappointed. We’ve seen all the elements of this film before, and “Paranormal Activity 4” simply doesn’t scare us the way original films used to.

The film is another found footage recounting of what happens when an average American family takes in the creepy neighbor boy after his mother is involved in a mysterious accident. Fans of the “Paranormal Activity” movies may guess the boy’s identity (as well as the truth about his mother) but suffice it to say that no sooner does he move in to the neighbor’s house than strange things start happening. Teenager Alex (Katheryn Newton) and her wisecracking boyfriend, Ben (Matt Shively) set up cameras around the house to try and capture the creepy late-night occurrences. The cameras do end up recording some pretty scary moments, but it’s nothing that’s particularly shocking for fans of the series.

If  “Paranormal Activity 4” does have a novel idea, it’s found in the use of an Xbox Kinect, which projects a series of infrared light dots around the room. I don’t know if tying a gaming console to a horror film is good project placement or not, but it does add some interesting visual images to the film. That’s a refreshing addition, given that a found footage movie, by its very definition, is forced to rely upon only the simplest of cinematography.

The rest of the movie is just a collection of cheesy scares and long stretches of boring down time between the light-night frights. Doors open all by themselves, cats suddenly spring into frame, and the oddball neighbor kid (Brady Allen) keeps appearing at the creepiest moments. There are some pretty big shocks in the moments that redeem the film for fans of the series, but I don’t think that it’s worth waiting an hour and a half for these silly scares.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at

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