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When you're making films that are as small as the "Paranormal Activity" movies, it's easier to fly under the radar and not have major leaks involving story details.
It's not an insult to call these small movies, either. That's part of the charm of the series, this handmade quality that makes them feel like they're not just part of the corporate machine. It's deceptive, of course. While the first "Paranormal" was about as handmade as a film can be, once Paramount finally released it and saw the reaction, they have created a system where they can make these films quietly, cheaply, and no one really knows what they're up to until they decide to share.
For example, with the last film, people didn't even fully know what premise they were using until the film began to screen. The trailers carefully danced around giving away any details, and they way the process worked, they were able to experiment until they found the film they liked. They've got the directors of the last one back this time, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, and it's almost surprising how clear a picture of what we can expect from the fourth film in the series we get from today's trailer debut.
It appears that we're done moving backwards in time finally, and instead we're going to get a full-fledged sequel. At the end of the last film, both Katie (Katie Featherston) and her very young nephew Hunter disappeared. It looks like they've taken up residence now in a new suburban neighborhood, and that their appearance brings… well, some paranormal activity, fittingly enough.
I'm actually really surprised by how much life they've managed to eke out of this series so far, and every time I'm ready to see them fall on their faces, they've managed to find a new way to mine the same basic scares. Now that we've seen the backstory that destroyed both Katie and Hunter, they can emerge as the central figures of fear in this new film, and it looks like they have some sort of purpose in their new house. I hope we learn nothing more than we've seen here, because I think the hook is amply baited now. The film comes out in a few months, so they don't need to overdo it. Schulman and Joost learned a lot on the third film about what does or doesn't work for this particular series, and I think we're in good hands for this new one.
"Paranormal Activity 4" opens October 19, 2012.