The original 2007 horror movie Paranormal Activity was an independent film success story. It was produced on a low budget, presented at a film festival and picked up by a major studio (Paramount).
It was so low budget that the actress who stared in the film (Katie Featherstone) was only paid $500 for the whole movie. The entire movie was filmed in the producer’s own house so that they would not have to pay for any location.
It was the story of a young couple in a upper middle class suburban neighborhood who feel strange unexplained things are happening in their house at night. The husband sets up a series of cameras on motion detectors and discovers that it is his wife herself that seems to go into some sort pf demonic possession each night.
The original Paranormal Activity was an excellent film, with very scary scenes and characters you cared about. But there was one problem. The film became a huge commercial success and made a tremendous profit. That success was the problem. Hollywood could just not resist the temptation to keep cranking our sequels to Paranormal Activity as long as the sequels could turn a profit.
Some of the sequels were pretty good. However, as in most sequels they got progressively worse and more formula driven. The other problem in it is that due to the high body count in the Paranormal Activity films it is hard to bring back any of the original characters since they get killed along the way.
This brings us to Paranormal Activity 5; the latest release in the franchise. Apparently the studio was trying to do something new, and possibly get a whole new demographic for its viewing audience. Instead of having the events take place in an upper middle class white suburb, they take place in a working class Hispanic neighborhood.
That would have been fine, except that instead of using a realistic working class Hispanic family, the movie has ridiculously stereotyped characters. It was like the producers had a contest to see how many Hispanic stock characters they could use. Just to name a few:
- Almost everyone speaks English with a Spanish accent even though they have lived in the U.S. their whole lives.
- The whole neighborhood is celebrating a high school graduation like it is the most amazing event that ever happened. They treat it as if the kid has won the Nobel prize.
- There is an Abuela who only speaks Spanish. She is, of course, Catholic, but in a cult worship sort of way and tries to get rid of the evil spirits using eggs. (This weird egg waiving scene is never explained. Are demons somehow allergic to dairy products?)
- When the kids discover where the witches have their coven, they do not call the police even though they have plenty of video evidence of wrongdoing. No, being Hispanic, they instead go to the local gang leader for help. He, of course, has a shotgun and an M-16 readily available in the truck of his car and a big goon by his side.
But the biggest problem with the movie is that the main characters are so stupid you want to shout at the screen. It is as if they guys from Dumb and Dumber stepped into a horror film.
The movie revolves around two friends just our of high school who for some unexplained reason are filming everything they do with a video camera. They do every stupid thing characters do in horror films. An old lady is murdered in her apartment, so they decide to break into the apartment at night and look around. When they find a trap door to a basement filled with evil images and skulls, they decide to explore. When one of them is bitten and begins to have problems they consult an electronic game instead of a doctor. After a while you begin to realize why the neighborhood was celebrating their High School graduation. It really was a miracle that either of these guys graduated from anything.
You really do get the feeling that the director was not even trying that hard and in some way is even showing the audience that he realizes how bad the film is. In one scene a character walks in front of a bookshelf filled with DVDs. If you look closely you will see that every one is a horror movie.
There is a cameo by Katie Featherstone, and her short scene is the best part of the movie. We just hope she got paid more that $500 this time.
We give this movie 2 stars **