Can of coke, Marketing department! This trailer makes the film look amazing!
Cast/Crew: No-one you’d know (besides the actresses playing young Katie and Kristy). Directed by Gregory Plotkin (editor for PA 1-4)
Plot: Paranormal found footage film. It’s 2008! Ryan has his brother Mike over to stay at his house, then paranormal activity occurs, targeting his young daughter Leila.
Quick run down of the camera gimmicks of the film:
PA1 – one static camera in the bedroom
PA2 – multiple security cameras in/around the house
PA3 – multiple static cameras + one on a Rotating fan axis (panning left to right)
PA4 – multiple static cameras + webcam + Microsoft Kinect (which can sense demon’s motion – boo! hiss!)
PA4b The Marked Ones – handheld + magic gateway door
PA4c The Ghost Dimension – 2 cameras, 1 can see the paranormal activity + ‘live reading’ VHS + magic gateway door
It’s worth revisiting the rules of the PA franchise that you need to accept to enjoy them, which is almost all still completely relevant:
1) It’s found footage spliced together, from a hand-held and security cameras.
2) The ghost/demon is invisible and so there’s little to no CG.
3) Cameras are set up around the house and you are asked to actively “monitor” the room for changes
4) The films work on a day/night cycle. Scares happen at night, footage is reviewed during the day. This works twofold, giving the audience a chance to relax after “monitoring” the night footage and also anticipating the night-time as ‘scary time’.
5) Attacks (aka jump scares, bangs, light-flickers, rumbling noises with abrupt stops) start off subtle (things moving, stopping), at night, eventually during the day, and continue in increasing violence to the crescendo at the end of the film.
6) There’s a bit of occult storyline thrown in to tie the films together.
7) No we can’t leave the house we don’t have the budget for that.
Thoughts on the film:
• Before we start, fuck you and your amazing house!! Lol. It’s massive and gorgeous. They explain that the house was suspiciously cheap and the realtor can’t be found at the agency given (i.e. they were groomed into buying the house).
• Apparently this is the last one but the poster and trailer don’t explicitly state such, so it’s just a last-minute ploy to put a few more bums on seats (bums on seats laddy, bums on seats!). They’ve started doing spin-off names (ie The Marked Ones, The Ghost Dimension) instead of numbered entries though. Bollocks it’s the last – I’ll believe it when I don’t see it!
• I really liked how the film got straight to it, no company logos or anything.
• The gimmick this time around is that they mysteriously find a custom camera and box of tapes among Xmas decorations, which can actually pick up evil disturbances audio/visually, which looks like light fog/ash, taking form as a humanoid when it gets stronger/denser. So whilst this gimmick is new and interesting, it’s also a lot less scary as you know where the ‘bad stuff’ is happening — so it’s actually a bad idea, undermining a lot of the scare-factor. It looks cool though.
• As always, you’re asked to monitor the footage (which cuts between a normal camera and the special camera). Instead of being innocuous activity, it’s big sweeping obvious movements; which is appreciated (since I’m not that observant with these things) but it further strips tension away from the film.
• The trade-off is we have to watch the film through an 80s arcade filter, which is grand.
• Being able to see the ghost means that the film now has tons of special effects shots – which is very much against the PA as a whole – I kept thinking how expensive this must’ve been in comparison ($10m as opposed to $3-5m, which is actually much less than expected, and brought in $78m worldwide). In general the haunting looks good until they throw a blanket over it and we get a naff CGI ghost. Real X-Pac heat there.
• I love the other really cool gimmick they have – watching Katie/Kristi’s vhs tapes of training sessions in the cult (trying to ‘see’ the other side), and Katie describes Ryan’s daughter’s current room – fucking awesome. They revisit it pushing the kayfabe further (achoo! bless you! and seeing another child in an impossible time). A fantastic gimmick. Also assuming these tapes aren’t magic (they’ve already been recorded) it gives the sense of predeterminism, that whatever Ryan’s family were going to do has already happened, so they can’t change their fate. That’s not brought up but I thought the implication was a great little touch.
• There’s lots of false (intentional) fake-out shocks, as well as the ‘knocked something over’/pan away and back again, oh! shots. Combined with being able to see the ghost it’s very difficult to build up tension.
• They absolutely realise what’s going on (ghost called Tobi is talking to/has targeted their daughter causing her to walk around entranced), and their research is bang on the money, but they laugh off the gravity of the situation and just continue to monitor. It’s a bit ridiculous (to not GTFO immediately) but I did appreciate them logically taking action when they feel it’s an actual threat – ring a priest; who tells them Leila’s haunted so running won’t do any good, sleep in daughter’s room on the floor; and go to a hotel anyway when scared.
• We get more exposition about the cult (which I love hearing about) and revisit the magic doorway into another time/place; which explains how kids can disappear/move great distances quickly; much appreciated.
• Big-breasted blonde babysitter (she serves no role besides being eye candy – she bounces as she meets Mike for the first time) optimises Feng Shui in houses for a living. JAYSUS, there’s an evil supernatural spirit in the house and you didn’t notice?!
• The cheap camera + looking to Christmas lights mean LIGHT STREAKING!
• Some real groaners/generic horror bits, e.g. daughter Leila sitting talking into the mirror. It’s a bit on the nose, as well as the ghost hand in mirror, which then breaks it.
• I always appreciate films trying to slot themselves the overall story of the franchise, like we see footage from previous PA films, they use this knowledge to try help them. They also come across a flyer for Hunter (so we hear a little more about Katie after abducting him)
• The big finish is the priest requests they try an extermination, which after some good build up is ultimately not very good.
• Small continuity problems – They show the end of PA3 but they change it, to picking up the camera and following the girls. They also say the house burned down in 1992 despite previously saying it burnt down after the girls escape to Grandma Lois’ house. These are very small things though, I just thought I’d mention it.
Overall: An easy watch, a solid gimmick but not particularly scary. The new ‘see the activity’ gimmick is fresh but also strips tension; the ‘live reading’ VHS tapes are great. It’s not very good but it’s what you can expect for a sequel of the franchise. You’re not missing out though, can’t recommend.
The alternate ending scene runs under 3 minutes: After apparently banishing the ghost (and Leila returning to normal) cut to 4 months later, as the family are unpacking a moving fan outside their new home. They find a stray, ominous VHS tape and smash it. Two of Leila’s “friends” show up (one with a Samurai Cop wig), and later at Leila’s birthday party, she wishes for a baby brother.