Since 2009, there has been a Paranormal Activity film released every single year. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of the franchise, or you simply can’t stand it – that’s a massive moneymaking enterprise right there. No matter what the critics say, people are still going to see these films. They are still immensely popular.
Now, to get this out of the way early – I liked the first three films. The first two were super scary, with genuine frights waiting around every corner. The third Paranormal Activity film started to stretch the franchise very thin, but it definitely had its moments. There’s a quiver inducing shot involving a white sheet and an unexplained figure that is bound to get even the hardiest film fan hiding behind the sofa.
With the release of Paranormal 5 pushed all the way back to next Halloween, fans of the franchise are looking to its upcoming spin off for their yearly dose of found footage hi jinks. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is set for release in January. The question is – can it possibly be the attention that its directors are trying to convince us it definitely is worth?
It’s easy to re-hash the regular critics gripe with the Paranormal Activity franchise. Yes, it’s found footage. Yes, it’s been done before. No, it isn’t the most original ghost movie to be made in the previous ten years. It is what it is, and it has delivered in a lot of different ways. It’s fair to say that audiences have never been so frightened by slamming doors, swinging chandeliers and footprints in flour – nor will they ever be again.
Yet as anybody unlucky enough to have sat through Paranormal Activity 4 will know, the scares just don’t last. There isn’t enough originality left in this franchise, because we all know what to expect. They go to bed thinking that everything is fine and dandy. They sleep through several nights of odd noises, furtive shadows and unexplained movements. At some point, the noises will turn into actions and the terror will begin in earnest.
Except it doesn’t, because the suspense is gone.
And just for the record, there is nothing scary about the motion sensor on an Xbox – except for how frighteningly thin the premise has gotten. Whilst it’s important to acknowledge the fact that these films were one of the first to combine ghosts and handheld ‘found footage,’ it’s also essential to be aware of the fact they have spawned countless terrible imitations. Even worse – the Paranormal films have sort of become their own parody, in a strange and tragic way.
Well, I’ve got a temporary remedy for those tired of constant Paranormal Activity releases. Let’s go back to the classics, the tried and tested scares. This Halloween I watched The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Omen, The Fog, The Shining and The Blair Witch Project. I didn’t sleep for a week.