Ok, firstly, i must admit that i am not a horror movie fan. I do not particularly enjoy them. It may be because they are, on the whole, cheap to produce and cost effective. Production companies simply churn them out, they are the pop music of the movie world. Dozens of ambiguously creepy titled movies with unknown actors and unwritten scripts pop out each month, further diluting the pool. In my experience horror films are more likely to be laughably shit than truly terrifying, with a few notable exceptions. However, i do seem to find myself watching them surprisingly often. Whenever i go to the cinema with a friend “for something to do” and we haven’t researched what is on we always plump for a horror. I think this is because it is easy. When you are confronted with a dozen ubiquitous titles which you do not recognise it is difficult to select a movie, then you see something like “Dead Awakening” and you know what you’re going to get. Such was the case this evening when i saw “Paranormal Activity 4” listed.
I’d seen the original Paranormal Activity and ,i must admit, it creeped me out. It goes alongside The Exorcist and Ring as the scariest film I’ve seen. I think with all three of these movies the thing which makes them frightening is the element of the unknown enemy, the force of supernatural or undying evil which is rarely visible. The first Paranormal Activity is never graphic, it is a film about nothing, right up to the last twenty seconds. Nothing happens, a girl sleepwalks, footprints appear, there are no suspenseful ‘jumpy bits’, the power of the film, the true horror comes from what you can’t see, like “what the fuck just dragged her out of the bed”. The first Paranormal Activity is why i don’t have my legs hanging out of the covers when i sleep and why, if i woke to find a female bedfellow standing over me, motionless, with her head hanging down, i would leap up screaming and relentlessly punch her in the face til i was dragged away for a few years of pillowbiting in ‘D’ wing. It was a true horror film.
Paranormal Activity 4 sucks balls. It really does. There, that’s my review. No need to read further.
Still here? Ok then. Well, for the sake of honesty, i did look away or brace myself a few times in the cinema. PA4 has fallen foul of the horror movie cliche of low static noise, building menacingly into a crescendo and then oh my days its a small child who appears suddenly and the music cuts or jolts with a loud bass note. That’s the thing with PA4, more often than not the jumpy bit is something like a cat or a small child or an ordinary thing that happens to move rapidly into focus, the false alarm occurs far more often than the actual threat. I’m not going to analyse the threadbare plot or rip into the fact that, in order to suspend disbelief, we have to accept that this family has a macbook sat in four different rooms of the house that runs throughout the night and records from its webcam in standby mode because i could go on about how stupid it is for pages and pages. No, instead, I’m just going to be brief. Great horror leaves a mark on you, i checked my corners for weeks after watching Ring, shit horrors make you jump six times because the music screeched up and a child dashed past the camera. That’s why PA4 sucks and PA was awesome, PA never showed you the threat, it was always subtle, creepy and immaterial, an evil so incomprehensibly terrifying that lived beyond our plane of existence; whereas PA4 shows you a child who is more autistic than haunted and then reveals the threat 25 minutes from the end. PA never shows you the demon, the closest thing to an embodiment of the threat we see is at the very end when the girl throws her dead partner at the camera then growls and leaps at it. In PA4 we see a fairly attractive thirty year old brunette prowling around and throwing bodies about, with an occasional demonic face cgi effect. When the protagonist runs out into a garden and turns to see ranks of possessed people and then is set upon by demonface brunette, we find ourselves in a zombie film. I was struck by the sheer ridiculousness of the film, much like in ‘House At The End Of The Street’ when we learn that the handsome young man is the killer, the idea that all of the bumps and jolts are just the result of what are essentially zombies takes any of the remaining edge off. Imagine if, in Jaws, the first scene had been someone swimming up to the great white with a tape measure and going “wow, 35 footer, bet you eat a few humans”, it throws the entire movie into farce. When the credits rolled i laughed a little too loudly.