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Belittling Horror Excessively: Paranormal Activity 406:12 PM -- Mon October 28, 2013

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: A family gets a new neighbor: the woman who got possessed and kidnapped her sister's son in the previous movies and then disappeared. One night, she's taken to the hospital and the family has to care for her son for a few days. Kinect advertising ensues.

Scariness Type: This is the classic found footage! Long shots of empty rooms with nothing going on, until suddenly you notice something moving in the corner! That can be quite scary sometimes, but a lot less so here than in previous installments.

Rating: 2/5 Kinects.

Body Count: 4

Fun Fact: This movie was like a huge product placement for the XBox Kinect. A significant portion of the movie is actually spent showing the sparkly disco dots you get when you use night vision to look at the output of the Kinect camera. Which the family leaves on 24 hours a day for some reason.

Best Moment: When the possessed woman's son leads the other family's son across the street to his house, that's a pretty scary sequence. There's just something that works about furniture draped in white sheets and filmmakers know this - it was also in The Amityville Haunting, and at least one of the others I watched this past week, not sure which. So this strange house, with sheets over all the furniture, and it's almost a maze, and you know something bad is going to be in there, as you turn corner after corner, searching for this missing child... pretty good. Not great though, not even then.

Worst Moment: There's a whole bit where the ghosts/demons/magical powers have locked the family's daughter in the garage, and magically started up the car to choke her with carbon monoxide. It's super ridiculous, in part because the scenario just isn't 'spooky' enough, it's more like something somebody would plot to get some life insurance money or something, but also because it's just so silly, and the room fills up with this thick smoke in under a minute. I guess it's mainly the idea that the ghosts are operating the car that just ruins it all. That's so mundane and non-creepy. It just doesn't go along with randomly sliding objects around in the house, it's this very complex intentional act instead.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: The smoke in the previously mentioned scene was pretty ridiculous. As is the final moment of the movie (spoiler alert!) which I have two major problems with: first, there's an absolute army of what I presume are supposed to be witches. I paused it and tried to do some math and I think at least 50 women are clearly visible, and it seems to continue on from there into the shadows, all jammed into the backyard of this house, not making a peep. It's just insane! I guess the craziness of it does make it creepier, but it just left me with so many questions. Did they bring in porta-potties for this event? Were snacks provided? Where are they all sleeping, and where are their cars? My other issue is that the little brother who the big sister is trying to rescue is standing right in front of her, and she's just saying "Come on, let's go! Come on!" instead of grabbing him and pulling him or carrying him. And it'd be nice if she'd set the camera down to do it, but hey, found footage movie.

Horror Tropes: Found footage standards are all around. This movie is so full of completely unbelievable obsession with cameras. They end up rigging all the laptops in the house (of which there are for some reason many, and they're all on 24/7 and never have their lids shut) with some kind of spyware to run their webcam at all times and record it, which apparently doesn't take up much hard drive space since they do it for days straight. Another thing that happens in horror movies (recently anyway) is that you see an ancient pagan symbol of some kind and then in ten minutes, you can google it up and learn all about it, all kinds of plot-appropriate information that perfectly hints at what the threat is going to be. And they believe what they google. Oh hey, here's a non-horror trope: the dad is sitting watching TV in one scene, and you can't see it, you can only hear it. And what do you hear? What you always hear when people on TV watch TV! A machine gun noise, followed by somebody screaming. Always. People on TV just love war movies, I guess.

My Take: I'm a Paranormal Activity fan. I love the thrill ride of looking for the scary thing in the corners of each scene. But even I thought this movie was lame. Like big time lame. One thing it had was too much paranormal activity! At one point, the kid is riding his Big Wheel in the house, and in plain sight in front of him, a chair scoots into his path. He backs up and then another one does. He gets off his Big Wheel, and it starts driving itself around. I mean, this is major major stuff. If it really happened, that family would be outta there! While Paranormal Activity movies are normally lambasted for the boredom of staring at empty rooms, this movie swung too hard the other way. It's just a riot of nonsense happening, and the plot is silly and not at all believable. What made the first movie good (and to an increasingly lesser extent with each sequel) was that it looked real, and it was subtle enough to go unnoticed at first, and then gradually grow until it got them. I still remember the really scary ending stuff in the first movie, when they finally went down into the basement. I don't know if the makers are too wrapped up in the mythology they've built around the movie, or they're not taking it seriously enough and just trying to up the scare ante. All I know is they're doing it wrong. They should watch their first movie again and see what they were doing.

Missed Opportunity: Surely that knife could've done something more than just dropping and sticking in the counter...

The Lesson: Never take in stray kids.

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