Paranormal Activity 4 Review (Kirk Haviland)

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Starring Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovekamp and Katie Featherston

Written by Chad Feehan, Zack Estrin and Christopher Landon

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

New this weekend in theaters from Paramount Pictures comes the latest installment in the Paranormal Activity series: Paranormal Activity 4. Starting with superbly crafted tiny indie film that became a sensation that was the first PA, the series has gone on to generate millions in revenue for little cost for Paramount and has managed to supplant the Saw films as the recurring new film each year for Halloween in theaters. But has the film series exhausted itself creatively, and perhaps more importantly has it outstayed its welcome with its audience?

Paranormal Activity 4 takes place five years after Paranormal Activity 2, which ended with Katie’s (Featherston) dispatching of her sister’s family and the abducting of their baby, Hunter. The 4th film follows the life of teen Alex (Newton), along with her boyfriend Ben (Shively), her parents and her little brother Wyatt (Lovekamp). Alex’s mom takes Robbie (Allen) into their home after his mother has an accident which puts her in the hospital. But things are not as they seem and Robbie is far from an ordinary young boy and his presence leads to strange phenomena occurring inside the house. Alex seems to be the only one who is noticing the strange occurrences all around her, and the change of Wyatt’s attitude under the influence of Robbie.

The biggest issue I had with the 4th film in the Paranormal Activity series is the fact that it’s really boring. The new family here is really an unengaging group, with the script really painting mom and dad as stereotypical shells and leaving the entire story centering on the kids. Fortunately Newton’s performance as Alex, the daughter, is the strongest acted performance of the film. She really delivers a solid performance and Lovekamp’s portrayal of Wyatt is some decent work as well. The comedic relief is left on Shively’s shoulders as the boyfriend and he manages to provide a few laughs.

However, our returning character of Katie is barley involved this time around. The film trudges along with very few high spots until we hit he final act. We see some interesting developments before the final “stare down”, including one character’s inventive demise, but then it all goes horribly wrong. The ending is terrible. I mean Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers awful here. It incorporates aspects and graphics that have never been involved in any way in the previous films and does it spectacularly wrong. Also the contention/ leap of faith we are required to believe with regards to the recording of the events throughout the film is preposterous. Setting all the webcams on all the laptops in the house to record non-stop would require all the laptops to be open ALL THE TIME, never mind the batteries running out. And this is done without the family’s knowledge! This never comes off at believable for a minute.

Ultimately Paranormal Activity 4 fails at delivering the tense, unnerving experience that the first film did so well. As with the case with the Saw films, Paranormal Activity 4 is a victim of the law of diminishing returns for horror sequels, as the story lacks any of the bite that the first one did. Paranormal Activity 4 is a non-recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Chernobyl Diaries Review (Kirk Haviland)

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Staring Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Dimitri Diatchenko, Nathan Phillips and Ingrid Bloso Berdal.

Written by Oren Peli, Shane Van Dyke and Carey Van Dyke

Directed by Bradley Parker

Back in 2007 writer/director/producer Oren Peli scared up massive box office returns and multiple sequels with his creepy little found-footage epic Paranormal Activity. Chernobyl Diaries marks the first post-Paranormal project we get from Peli, though for his next directorial effort we’ll have to wait for Area 51, due later this year. The question remains, will Paranormal Activity be the launching of a new talent, or will Peli’s name go down with the likes of M. Night Shyamalan – the once promising now mocked director of the Sixth Sense.

Chernobyl Diaries starts with a found-footage style montage of Chris (McCartney), his girlfriend Natalie (Dudley), and their friend Amanda (Kelley) as they make their way across Europe, the next destination being Kiev to stay with Chris’ semi-reliable brother Paul (Sadowski). Upon arriving we learn Chris plans to pop the question to Natalie once they hit Moscow, a trip Paul has been tapped to plan out for the group because he lives in the country and has learned the language. After a drunken night out on the town and a near miss with a couple of Russian hooligans impressed with the girls, the group goes for breakfast, but Paul has not met them there as planned. Soon after Paul comes barreling in all excited and ready to lay his plan on the table. Sometime between the previous late night and breakfast (?), Paul has met Uri (Diatchenko), owner of Uri’s Extreme Tours. The two of them have arranged for the group to join a tour to Pripyat, the closest you can safely get to Chernobyl itself, and a town abandoned when the nuclear reactor melted down. Against Chris’ wishes to simply go straight to Moscow, Paul manages to convince the girls, luring shutterbug Amanda with the photo opportunities, to go on the tour and they head for Uri’s offices. The group meets Uri and two other travellers joining the tour, Micheal (Phillips) and Zoe (Berdal), a young couple who are very attached to each other. Uri takes the intrepid group to Pripyat and shows them around the abandoned city. When they return to the van they find it’s has been tampered with, and they are stuck after dark without help in Pripyat. That’s when they find out if they are truly alone out there.

Chernobyl Diaries, while having found-footage aspects included, is not a found-footage film. It’s something completely different than Peli’s previous outing, yet unlike Paranormal, it takes a familiar formula and seems content to just hit the same notes as its predecessors. The film does possess one fantastic sequence involving some unexpected local wildlife, but other than that most of this film is familiar territory. McCartney and Dudley are fine as the “practically married” couple, as Paul describes them – the voice of Theodore (McCartney) from Alvin and the Chipmunks (yes you read that right) puts in some unexpectedly decent work here. Kelley and Phillips also come off pretty well, yet my favorite performance of the film goes to Diatchenko as Uri. Uri can be menacing, dangerous, playful and harmless all in a matter of mere moments. It’s a fun performance. Unfortunately Berdal’s Zoe becomes grating with her having to take on the whiny girl persona for much of the film. And the real issue here is the awful performance of Sadowski, grating is not a strong enough word for the amount of detest I have for the performance and character. Never is there a moment where you side and with him and his smugness at the beginning of the film makes whatever emotional heft that he is supposed to deliver late ring with faker than a $20 Rolex.  He really took me out of the film in many parts.

Chernobyl Diaries is a passable piece of horror that doesn’t make any effort to further the genre; it just wants to exist in it. Hardly the worst film I’ve seen this year, but disturbingly content to simply paint by familiar numbers. Chernobyl is fun enough for a very mild recommend, but the only thing that has managed to stick with me a day later is Sadowski’s performance, and this is not a good thing. As for Peli, the verdict is still out, but if Area 51 turns out to be his “The Village” then M. Night will have some company.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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