Essential plot rundown: People leave cameras recording 24/7 because they are being haunted. I didn't have any interest in these movies. But, my friend got them for Christmas; so we watched them over the break. And I waited to write about them all til I saw the 4th one, which just barely came out.
So, I saw the first one which I didn't think was anything special. But, then I saw the second and the ending hooked me. This might sound weird, but I don't think these movies are scary at all. In all four movies, there are only a handful of jump scares and a few tense moments. But, I like the series for the story. After watching the end of the second, third, and fourth ones, I was like What is going to happen next?! I need more! It is not common that as soon as a movie is over, I immediately want to see the sequel. (I can only remember that happening with [Rec] 2). I find the over arching story intriguing; but, there are huge plot holes between each movie.
Let's briefly talk about each movie individually and then I'll address the series as a whole.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
This movie was nothing special. If they never made a sequel I would have been fine. One complaint is that it was "filmed" using only one camera; however, there are parts when it would cut to a different shot, but the audio would be seamless, just like it would have been with two cameras.
Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
PA 2 is just another average movie; entertaining but nothing to write home about. That is until the end. I saw the ending and was like OMG! Did that really just happen? After that moment, I needed to see the rest to see how it plays out. This movie roughly takes place at the same time as the first.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
I thought this was the scariest of all of them, though probably my least favorite. PA 3 suffers from sequelitis--where it must out do the previous installments. It shows too much. But I did like how they explained the video camera, since not everyone had one then. This is a prequel that takes place in the 80s.
Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
I would say this was probably the second scariest. Mainly because of a specific character; whenever she is on screen, I would get the creeps. But, an important thing to remember is that the kind from PA 2 is named Hunter, while the kids here are Robbie and Wyatt. I forgot the name of Hunter, so I was kind of confused during this movie. But, then I remembered his name and got even more confused. It kind of doesn't make sense, but hopefully they will explain in the next one. And the ending was kind of dumb. This takes place about 5 years after the second.
Ok, so there's that. Now let's talk about the series as a whole. I'm doing this because there are things that bug me that occur in all the films, or just one or two (but I can't remember which ones).
A question I constantly had was Why are you still recording? There are some parts that make sense why the camera out; but for others, there is absolutely no reason why the camera would be on. In the third, there is a shot of the dad working at his computer. Why is he filming himself at the computer?
Speaking of cameras, do they never run out of tape, memory or batteries? I think it is the first one where they use tapes that only have 6 hours on them; but they then proceed to record all through the night. And in PA 4, they use laptops that are also recording, even when they are using the laptop to watch movies on. I'm no expert, but I don't think that's how laptops work. But, maybe they do, I don't know.
And I don't think they use night vision correctly. Does night vision automatically turn on/off with the lights? And, for the cameras recoding in the night without night vision, how can they see what is happening? If I put my computer on record during the night with the lights off, I'm pretty sure it will see nothing but black.
Also, the movies are random with the time code. Sometimes the recordings have the time on the bottom, other times they don't. Actually, they only have it during the night when the "scary" stuff happens. During the day, there is none. But it just bugs me that it is not consistent.
This happen a lot in PA 4 and I would assume in the others as well, but they try to use editing to scare you. There will be nothing happening, then it will "jump cut" to a noise (such as someone opening the fridge) in an attempt to startle you. To me, they feel like cheap scares; I don't want to be scared by a fridge, but by a ghost.
And a thing I hate was when they use the DEMON FACE. It just looks stupid and is a cheap scare. And it doesn't really make sense. Why/how would her face even do that? It's just silly.
This is just a question, not a concern. But I wonder how popular these films would be if they were PG-13 instead of rated R. They could have easily been PG-13 because the only content in them is just a bunch of f-bombs. There are a few deaths and murders and stuff, but nothing graphic or explicit. I'm just curious as to how much a rating affects the movie.
And if you are planning on watching these, don't watch the trailers. Just go in blind. Because, frankly, most of the trailers show footage not in the movie. So, you won't see what you were expecting. Or, if they do show footage from the movie, it kind of spoilers it because now you know what is going to happen.
Also, watch them in order. Like I said, PA and PA 2 take place roughly at the same time with PA 3 being a prequel and PA 4 being a sequel. So I've heard people talk about how the order doesn't matter or that they should start with PA 3. But I say watch them in order. Each one reveals more and more information. In PA 2 toward the beginning, they say something about what happened in PA. So, if I would have watched the second one first, when I saw PA I would have not been surprised.
So, overall, each movie is average, but I really like the series as a whole. I like that it has an over arching storyline, whereas a lot of horror movies don't. But, like I said, I didn't really find any of them that scary and there are a lot of continuity problems.
But that's just my opinion...