Paranormal Activity 4
Tagline: It’s Closer Than You Think
The tagline for Paranormal Activity 4 seems more like a comment on the end of this interminable U.S. election campaign than the marketing slogan for one of the best known modern-day horror franchises. But politics aren’t on the agenda. Instead, can it really be a year since Paranormal Activity 3 arrived on our screens, trying its best to scare the bejesus out of us? Apparently so, and whether you’re a fan or not of the franchise, you have to admire the efficiency with which they crank out each installment. And the fact that Halloween is nearly upon us must just be a convenient coincidence, right?
Once again, we’re in the well-worn realm of found footage as directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) go with their “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” policy. The plot concerns evil Katie — who should indeed concern us, as she’s done some very bad things in past films — and who is now attempting a fresh start with her young son. But before you’ve even had a chance to settle in to episode four, Katie’s new neighbors are on the receiving end of those disturbing developments which the Paranormal series specializes in.
The reviews aren’t exactly going to frighten the other new movies competing for your attention but there is a sense that it’s not quite as bad as it could have been (which is hardly a ringing endorsement). “Is there still to fun to be squeezed out of this concept?” asks FEARnet. “Paranormal Activity 4 asserts that there is, and while I would agree (to a point), there’s no denying that we’ve reached the “established fans only” stage of this particular horror franchise.” IGN Movies is more positive: “The film does deliver on scares, and at a time when so few Hollywood horrors succeed on that front, we should grateful for the consistency of the Paranormal Activity films.” But the Scotsman brings us back to earth, noting that it’s “another round of home video scares from a creep show franchise whose “found footage” is now best left in the cutting room bin.”
It’s been a pretty solid year for French cinema. The Artist swept all before it at the Oscars but still didn’t have it all its own way in France’s own annual awards, the Césars, thanks to The Intouchables. But could the best film of the lot be Holy Motors, which is about a day in the life of a unique individual who goes by the name of Monsieur Oscar?
Directed by the enigmatic Leos Carax, his leading man (Denis Lavant) plays a rare combination of millionaire and serial disguise artist, who transforms from one persona to another while being chauffeured around Paris. It’s typically surreal stuff from Carax, who has only made five previous features over the past 30 years or so. (Getting even more meta: Leos Carax is the director’s nom de plume, a rather clever anagram of the first two parts of his real name, Alex Oscar Dupont). There’s not too much point trying to delve deeply into the plot, especially when you consider that Carax thought about casting Charlie Chaplin for the lead role (seeing how we’re not in Weekend at Bernie‘s territory, good luck with that).
While everything evidently surrounding Holy Motors and the director is distinctly odd, Carax is actually having the last laugh as the reviews are uniformly excellent. “Perhaps strangest of all, it’s a film … that’s a contender for the best of the year,” notes Empire. “It’s a happy return to the cinema for Carax, and likely to prove the classic he has been hoping to make,” concludes the Observer. “Typically confounding but on every level that matters a work of unfettered — and liberating — imagination,” writes New York magazine. And the Daily Telegraph believes that “Holy Motors is so much more than an arthouse Greatest Hits tape, and purrs along the dark, deserted highways of the mind with a muscular, erotic charge that is all its own.”
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Holy Motors might be baffling but there’s arguably more imagination at work here than in all four Paranormal Activity movies put together.