Brian Henry Martin at the movies

The Phantom Nonsense

Published Thursday, 18 October 2012
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There's nothing better than being scared silly in the cinema at Halloween. So what great timing for a new Paranormal Activity film...

This time, the fourth instalment of the popular supernatural horror series. Time to feel chills down my spine?

No I'm afraid not, as the most disturbing thing about this scary movie is how this phantom nonsense ever got made. I was so terrified by the dreadful filmmaking, that never mind being scared silly, by the end of this monster mess I was dumb struck.

The plot, if that's what you can call it, once again revolves around a demonic presence taking up residence in a suburban family home. Five years after the disappearance of Katie and baby Hunter, Nevada teenagers Alex and Ben find a mysterious child in their back yard and the paranormal activity begins again. And it is these two pesky teens who become our unsteady eyes and ears through this spooky happening.

As well as the classic ghost house, all the usual horror cliches are thrown into the supernatural pot, including bumps in the night, flying books and imaginary friends. What directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman should be concerned about is the imaginary script. This film has as much tension as a limp handshake.

I hate found footage films. Fiction features that pretend to be real video recordings left behind by the missing or dead protagonists for us to view. So real in fact, that the fuzzy lighting, tinny sound and shaky camerawork are amateurish at best and unwatchable at worst.

The actors or non-actors as they should be, are so naturalistic that they deliver their non performances with a kind of dead pan whine. Why we would want to watch a badly filmed movie on a big screen is beyond me. It is a waste of a wonderful film projector. Found footage would be better viewed on your phone, or simply left in the bin.

Time to lay this movie ghost to rest. These cheap and nasty horror flicks are aimed squarely at the undemanding adolescent film-goer, who watch in packs embroiled in a popcorn frenzy. In a lively full house this can be fun. But much like a pantomime, the audience only gets out what it puts in. So mass screams and shocks, yells and jolts all greatly add to the experience.

The truth is these films, may not be great art but are box office gold. The original Paranormal Activity was made in 2007 for a reported $15,000 and shot in a mere ten days in director Oren Peli's own home. Eventually released a couple of years later by Paramount Pictures, with a canny marketing campaign, it grossed more than $200 million worldwide. This made Paranormal Activity one of the most profitable films in cinema history.

Cha-Ching a sequel. Cha-Ching a prequel. And now holy moly a follow-up to the sequel, Paranormal Activity 4. Heaven forbid this makes money, we could be into demonic double figures before they give up the ghost.

Paranormal Activity 4 (Cert 15) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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