I would love to see what a Film Studies graduate made of the way in which cameras are used in Paranormal Activity.
Even a novice like myself could tell that the positioning added much to the overall tension of the situation.
In Paranormal Activity, there is only one camera. This means that most of the house is not being covered by it. The fear of the unknown was titillated as a matter of course. In addition, it was mostly pointed at a sleeping couple in bed, and an open doorway. You could only see part of the landing and stairwell through it.
I found myself wishing that I could see the whole of either of them. A partial viewing just made the routes clear, without highlighting anything actually on them, until it was too late.
In Paranormal Activity 2, the cameras focused upon the whole house. We could flit from room to room with full coverage. Unfortunately (or fortunately, given your point of view), the downstairs was largely open plan. This gave us a lot of background to be constantly watching.
The unsettling thing about these cameras was that they were all in high corners. We were voyeurs looking down upon every scene. It made it subtly feel like something was perched, ready to pounce.
In terms of fear inducement, the oscillating camera in Paranormal Activity 3 took the prize for me. It would regularly turn to film one room, then slowly move across to face another, then back again.
I found myself holding my breath! The potential for something to leap out was immense, but worse still was wanting a closer look at something glimpsed in the instant that the camera moved away. Pure brilliance!
For the internet generation, Paranormal Activity 4 held all of the scares. Here things glimpsed in the background of a webcam, during a Skype call, was all. I could so identify! I spend most of my evenings staring at friends with their backs to a room. In fact, I'm doing it right now, as I type. Why don't any of us sit with our backs to a wall, while we're on the computer?!
However, the genius camera footage in this movie came from the XBox Kinect. The gaming console comes complete with tracking devices, designed to pick up any movement in a room. That's great when you're ducking, jumping and dancing your way through a game. Not so brilliant when there's not supposed to be anyone in a room, and the sensor picks up a form.
Unfortunately, this was the movie which left me with a sour taste regarding other filming methods. The plot seemed to rely upon the fact that modern teenagers will film anything, at any time. I don't think that they do, particularly when fighting for their lives.
Even if they did find evidence of paranormal activity in those circumstances, the denizens of YouTube and Reddit would cry fake. Every teenager knows that you need a reason to have been filming in the first place, if you're going to accidentally capture something supernatural. The internet can be a very unforgiving place otherwise.
And so can cinema audiences. Hopefully Paranormal Activity 5 - due in October 2014 - will see a return to its roots, or will ditch the found footage genre for straight story telling. Otherwise, it risks losing all that made this series amongst the scariest horror movies to date.