Paranormal Activity is back, and it's - well, it could be worse....
Paramount / 97 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: January 29, 2013
At the end of our last installment of the flatlining Paranormal Activity found-footage horror franchise, a husband and wife are murdered by their demon-possessed sister (the same one who killed poor Micah in an earlier PA flick), and she grabs the couple's son and leaves town. As last year's Paranormal Activity 4 begins, we meet the lovely Alex (Kathryn Newton), a typical young teenager in squeaky-clean Henderson, NV.
One day, Alex and her beau go out to their treehouse and they come across a kid hiding there. This is Robbie, son of one of Alex's neighbors. As fate will have it, Robbie's mom gets rushed to the hospital, and seeing as Alex and her family are good Samaritans, they offer to take Robbie into their home until mom is well enough to return. This turns out to be a very poor decision.
Paranormal Activity has become our new Saw franchise - even the most tolerating horror aficionados go to see these movies near Halloween not to be legitimately terrified, but just to be part of the juggernaut: PA is far more about being a filmgoing event than it is about earnest, effective filmmaking. Are there scares here? Sure. But if you make a sound effect loud enough and edit a sequence in a certain way, it's fairly easy to jolt your audience.
But the kind of slow-boiling terror that horror movies have such a unique capacity of manifesting is nowhere to be found in this limp new PA release. The franchise really could go on forever - we'll get another one this year that, if the coda to this fourth movie is accurate (the jury's out), will be a real scare-fest - but the creative teams behind these camcorder-shot affairs need to get back to basics if they want to recapture the fire of the first movie's eerie immediacy.