Tag: henry joost

Paranormal Activity 4

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
★ / ★★★★

After Katie (Katie Featherston), possessed by an evil spirit, abducted her nephew, Hunter, in 2006, no one came to know of their whereabouts. Five years later, there is a ruckus across the street from where Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her family live. The next day, Holly (Alexondra Lee), Alex’ mother, says that a little boy named Robbie (Brady Allen) will stay with them for a couple of days until his mother recovers in the hospital. Despite Alex feeling uncomfortable that the strange boy who frequents their property in the middle of the night will live with them, it is already decided that Robbie will room with little Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp).

There is a saying that time heals all. I am not sure if I can agree. The pain of enduring Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s “Paranormal Activity 3” remains so vivid to this day that prior to watching the fourth entry, I was convinced that the series had no way to go but up. I was wrong. “Paranormal Activity 4,” also directed by Joost and Schulman, takes somnolence to a whole new level by asking us to sit through scene after scene that lack good jolts as well as inspiration.

At least it begins promisingly. There are some amusing interactions between Alex and Ben (Matt Shively), the sort-of boyfriend who hang around the house and is conveniently knowledgeable when it comes to setting up and hiding cameras. Even though neither proves to be very smart, experiencing the bizarre occurrences mostly through the perspective of young adults is rife with possibilities.

I was optimistic enough that maybe the filmmakers are willing to try something new, maybe even dare to skewer the horror sub-genre that the series has single-handedly revived. I thought that Ben and Alex, probably around sixteen or seventeen years of age, would be self-aware enough to have at least several horror pop culture references especially since they are internet savvy.

The problem is that the screenplay by Christopher Landon insists on limiting what the story can be capable of by forcing the characters to live in a vacuum. It is so self-serious that when no paranormal phenomena is happening, one can get up, get a glass of water, wash the cup, use the restroom, and return to the couch without missing a thing. What the picture sorely lacks is entertainment value. There is probably a total of five creepy moments (I’m being generous) prior to the ending that feels so desultory and forced. Clocking at about an hour and twenty minutes, it has about ten to fifteen minutes of workable material. This is unacceptable. Imagine a comedy that has only five somewhat funny jokes. Who wouldn’t be in a bad mood?

The scares are typical, from a ball bouncing down the stairs to doors opening very slowly while a character sleeps on the bed. But it has bigger problems. Common sense is thrown out the window. If Alex is as scared as she claims she is, how often does she review the recordings? If she is so concerned for her and her family’s safety, she would be obsessed with checking the evidence and determining if she had enough to convince her family that something was very wrong. I know I would. Instead, after major events start to happen in the second half, neither Alex nor Ben bother to check the contents of the cameras. If Alex does not know how to check it by herself, what is stopping her from asking to be taught? The writer. Since Landon fails to create believable people on screen, it is difficult to buy into the reality of their situation.

Just because a movie is made cheaply, does not mean its contents should feel cheap. There is a difference and the sooner the filmmakers learn to discern between the two, the sooner they can save their already decaying reputations.

Paranormal Activity 3

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
★ / ★★★★

Katie (Katie Featherston) delivered a box of videotapes to her sister’s house (Sprague Grayden) which contained events in September 1988 when young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and young Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) lived with their mom, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith). Julie and Dennis decided to make a sex tape. Just when things began to become pornographic, they were interrupted by an earthquake. As the couple ran from the room to get the kids, the camera captured an invisible figure with the help from the dust that fell from the ceiling. This strange occurrence inspired Dennis to install cameras for two reasons: to gather evidence that there really was a ghost in the house and to see what it wanted from them. “Paranormal Activity 3,” written by Christopher Landon and Oren Peli, did not only deliver a dearth of genuine scares, it offered only one piece of new information that connected Katie and Kristi’s stories from Peli’s “Paranormal Activity” and Tod Williams’ “Paranormal Activity 2,” respectively. When the credits rolled, I wondered why they even bothered. There was no connection, as a family, between the characters and everyone seemed to be playing dumb. They consistently waited to hear weird noises or see furnitures move by themselves instead of actually doing something to try to prevent them from happening again. Perhaps I would have felt more scared for the family if the parents were more protective of their children by allowing their instincts to take over once in a while. Sometimes we just know that there’s something really wrong. We don’t wait for all the facts before taking action especially when it comes to survival. If Dennis reviewed the tapes each day, I didn’t understand why the filmmakers did not allow him to see the videos in which Katie’s bed was moved by an unknown force and she being violently dragged across the floor. That was an important moment, a potential climax, and it should have been shown. If I was their father and I saw what happened to my kids the night before, there was no way I was going to stay in that house and allow my children to be harmed. In some instances, the film failed to milk what they had. Dennis and Julie hired a babysitter (Johanna Braddy) so they could have some alone time in the city. It was the ’80s and teen slasher flicks, most of them involved babysitters, dominated the horror genre. It could have been more pointed with its irony when the house ghost, with a white sheet over its head, inched toward Lisa as she read a book in the kitchen. Once the sheet fell to the ground, the tension was gone and it reverted to being a soporific bore. “Paranormal Activity 3,” directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, had very limited tricks up its sleeve. I was thunderstruck not because of the visual effects behind the paranormal happenings which, by the way, were just mediocre, but because of its overall lack of imagination to propel the story forward. If I were to compile a ratio between scenes of nothing happening and “scares,” the former would outweigh the latter by a factor of five.


Catfish (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Yaniv “Nev” Schulman’s friend and brother, Henry Joost and Ariel “Rel” Schulman, decided to make a documentary about Nev’s communication, through Facebook and occasional phone calls, with a family in Michigan. Abby, the youngest of the family, e-mailed Nev claiming that she loved his photographs so much that she decided to make a painting off one of them. Apparently, her paintings were being sold for thousands of dollars. Eventually, Nev and Megan, Abby’s older sister, began to Facebook, text, and call each other. Everything seemed to be going well; Nev was especially happy because he genuinely believed that he found someone he could be in a serious relationship with despite the fact that they haven’t met in person. However, after discovering pieces of information that did not quite add up, the trio surmised that Megan might not be telling the truth. Nev, Henry, and Rel went on a road trip to Michigan to get to the bottom of things which was tantamount to opening Pandora’s box. “Catfish” was a fascinating documentary because I was convinced that everything that was happening wasn’t real. After all, who would wait about eight months to Google someone they haven’t met in person yet had all sorts of correspondences with that person? Regardless, I went along with it because the subject matter was creepy. I had so many questions I wanted answers to such as who Megan really was, whether Abby was really a gifted child artist, and what would happen once the three got to Michigan. There were times when it got downright scary. When the New Yorkers visited a farm in the middle of the night, which Megan supposedly owned, I expected them to get caught and get shot. You just don’t drive in the middle of nowhere and spy on someone else’s land. Other times, it was just sad. Either Nev was a really good actor or Nev really did fall hard for Megan. One scene that stood out to me was when Nev decided to read to the camera some of the texts he and Megan sent each other over the course of their flirtation. It was very personal, undoubtedly hilarious, and embarrassing. There was a certain sadness to it because Nev couldn’t believe he was tricked into believing that he found a potential girlfriend. What “Megan” did was very cruel but, as strange as it sounds, I was able to emphathize with her. Indeed, the trio did meet her. The film wasn’t necessarily about a critique of Facebook, but more about the dangers of being a part of social networks over the internet and easily allowing strangers to enter our lives just because they have a profile page. Even though the filmmakers did not directly address the issue of privacy, it was obvious that we should take more precautions concerning people we choose to interact with online.