Yes, you could say I'm being a hypocrite when I wonder what the growing animosity aimed at the Paranormal Activity franchise is all about, considering I leveled my own issues with the continuing Saw franchise not too long ago. I can't help that. I can only acknowledge my recognition of it.
Consequently, one of my arguments in favor of the Paranormal franchise would be they are made for a mere $5 million and manage to make the studio a hefty profit well beyond their budget. More importantly, they are propelling a continuing narrative that, to me, doesn't seem forced, particularly as this latest fourth film seemed to close all holes opened by the first two while giving a slight nod to the mythology developed in the third.
To that point, however, one of the biggest problems the franchise faces is how much each installment actually delivers in terms of story. Collectively the four films offer up some interesting ideas and a fun mythology to dig into, but individually each film really doesn't forward the story too much. In fact, each film is more like an extended television episode, that actually should probably be kept to 45 minutes rather than doubled up near 90. I understand these flaws, but as we saw with the attempt to duplicate the found-footage style thrills on television with "The River", it just doesn't work the same and we all know no one is going to pay full price for a 45 minute movie. People will take bloat before ever understanding the concept of "less is more".
The lack of a larger story each time out would seem to be the root of the majority of complaints. With the third film people wanted more. They obviously enjoyed the mythology that was created, but wanted to see it brought to fruition rather than have to wait for what will likely be explored in Paranormal Activity 5 where they will hopefully get the house fire teased in the trailers and cut from the third film.
As for Paranormal Activity 4, you could have probably edited it and Paranormal Activity 2 together into one feature film and kept the fanbase even happier.
I can understand these concerns, but what I don't really get are comments such as one I got on my article over the weekend announcing Paranormal Activity 5 as well as a Latino spin-off (reportedly titled The Oxnard Tapes) due Spring 2013. The comment came from a reader named Casper writing: "Hopefully PA5 will bomb (just like Saw with Saw 5, 6 & Saw 3d) and they will stop making it and move on with another horror pic." This confuses me... Is it all a reaction to the films themselves or the idea of them?
The story each time out is small, yes, but overall there is something to enjoy. On top of all that, why would anyone complain of their existence and root for their failure? At least Paramount uses the money made by these films to bring us movies with future prospects such as Noah, Flight and Not Fade Away rather than always churning out the likes of G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Perhaps I'm being a hypocrite and a bit prejudiced in my taste, and most likely I am. I enjoy the Paranormal films and enjoy being in an audience where people are having fun being scared rather than grossed out. But if one argument can be made for both Saw and Paranormal franchise, the fact these thrills don't come at the price of $100-200 million a pop make it even better as even a failed effort here doesn't scare the studio off from trying again. I just wish studios would take the same efforts in other genres.
Just this morning I reported on news Warner Bros. acquired the rights to Mickey Spillane's series of Mike Hammer novels. These are stories that could be made on the cheap and maybe not enjoy as much of a global success as the Paranormal franchise, but if done right and given to the right filmmaker they could be fun, hard-boiled cinema that could turn a profit and give reason for a similar annual franchise to look forward to each year. Why not give it a shot?