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Mercy Killing 

The Paranormal Activity franchise must be put down

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You’ve seen those TV ads for the Paranormal Activity movies in which night-visioned moviegoers jump and scream at the latest PA flick they were lucky enough to get an advanced showing of. I attended such a screening of PA4. All the attendees were required to sign a release form allowing Paramount Pictures to use their likenesses in the marketing of the film, and before the movie started, the audience was reminded again, nudge nudge, that they just might end up in a commercial for the film. Act super scared and over-the-top dramatic, and you could be on TV!

Even given that push, even with that sorta promise of 1.5 seconds of kinda fame, it was impossible for this audience to fake terrorization. The rampant dullness of the movie is shocking, I will grant it that much. Ironically, for all that, as with the earlier films, it’s mostly about watching people sleep; PA4 might best be used as a soothing nightlight, it’s that monotonous.

Almost plotless, pretty pointless and entirely un-scary, Paranormal Activity 4 may be one of the most unnecessary sequels ever. The basic found-footage conceit of accidentally capturing a malevolent poltergeist on home video equipment was more than played out by the just-tolerable PA1, and it decayed into instant irrelevance with its first sequel. Now, with the fourth film in the most redundant franchise ever, it’s as if the filmmakers themselves have given up, shrugged a WTF and simply tossed some random not-even-found-footage-anymore at us in the hopes that we won’t realize it’s not scary.

The ongoing story of poor Katie (Katie Featherston), the original PA hauntee, makes no sense whatsoever. At the end of PA2, set in 2006, we saw Katie kill her sister and brother-in-law and kidnap their infant son, her nephew, Hunter. Now, in 2011, it appears that Katie and current grade-schooler Hunter have moved in across the street from teen Alice (Kathryn Newton) in Nevada, because fugitives from double murders can easily rent upscale suburban homes. But whatevs. It’s the supernatural stuff that makes no sense.

Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, returning from PA3, have “crafted” a movie that could be called the Where’s Waldo of spooky shit, insisting that we search the background for something, anything to be happening — “Is a ghost gonna jump outta there?” “Is a shadow gonna pass over here?” — given that there is little of concern happening in the foreground. Sometimes, Joost and Schulman cheat unforgivably, as by inserting a jump cut where one would not be found in, you know, found footage just so there will be something, anything startling and jarring onscreen. 

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