Paranormal Activity 4: 7 Reasons It's Killing Modern Horror

With Paranormal Activity 4 hitting cinemas this week, and no doubt steam-rolling its way to the top of the weekend box-office charts in the process - despite increasingly terrible critical response (not that that is usually a good gauge of what will be enjoyable by any means), the internet is littered with articles trashing, and occasionally praising the found footage horror phenomenon. This article falls firmly in the first category, though I hope with more intelligent foundation than some of the rage-volcano reactions I've seen devoted to films recently. Rather than mercilessly pick apart the film to no end, as a horror film fan, and one who is appalled at the current state of the genre, I'm suggesting the reasons (seven of them) why Paranormal Activity as a franchise is further damaging to a genre already considered the laughing stock of film-making. So here goes...

1. The Lack of Imagination

Something that has blighted horror films for almost the entirety of the last three decades is the stultifying tendency to release sequels into the high-numbers of initially popular franchises, simply because they make money, rather than concentrating on new horror properties that could be critically well-received and breath life into the genre. Unfortunately, innovation and success tend to be gobbled up by the horror sequel machine, and instead of anything new, we get a rehash of the same ideas, with different faces pasted in, and a lack of unique thought that leads to both the death of those franchises, and a poor overall perception of the genre. Anything released that is new, or bold - as the first Paranormal Activity film was - generally only leads to the same eventual result, with too-long franchises squeezing out every positive drop. It's all one big recycling heap, perpetuating the same content until everyone gets sick. Even those films like Scream, which sought to deconstruct the genre and point out both the successes and problems of the genre ended up out-staying their welcome rather ironically. Unfortunately for this genre in particular, to deviate even slightly from the overall model is to betray the foundations of the franchise - you can't do anything too new, because the franchise's identity is so precisely drawn. Judging by the current trajectory, at some point in the future, the Paranormal Activity franchise will devolve into a paint by numbers book, featuring a protagonist being chased around a house by clattering pots and pans and slamming doors.

WhatCulture's former COO, veteran writer and editor.