Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Paranormal Activity 4
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Horror themes, violence and coarse language

Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Actors: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Alisha Boe, Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee, Aiden Lovekamp

The Paranormal Activity film series continues with Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. This time, the cell phones and computer cameras are focused on a teenage girl (Kathryn Newton) whose family allow a young boy in their neighborhood named Robbie (Brady Allen) to stay with them while his mum is sick. Soon after, eerie things start happening in the household, some of which focus on the girl's younger brother Wyatt. As the bumps in the night become more pronounced, the mysteries surrounding Robbie's family and the house across the street grow to the point where the only thing for the teen girl to do is investigate it herself.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 95mins
Origin: UNITED STATES
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
What Katie did
by Simon Miraudo,

Well, it was fun while it lasted kids. The ghost train shudders to a halt with Paranormal Activity 4, the first entry in the usually innovative series unable to produce any decent scares. While it still manages to induce a few cheap jumps on occasion, gone is the persistent and overwhelming sense of dread. And where the previous three pictures added to the increasingly intriguing mythology of the mischievous and malevolent demon that torments the saga’s poor souls, this one spins its narrative wheels ensuring that nobody could take away anything of value from it. I said in my review of Paranormal Activity 3 that this was still "the funnest ride at the fair." The fairground hasn't just closed down; it's been torched. As we discovered at the end of Part Three – a prequel – Katie (Katie Feat...

Well, it was fun while it lasted kids. The ghost train shudders to a halt with Paranormal Activity 4, the first entry in the usually innovative series unable to produce any decent scares. While it still manages to induce a few cheap jumps on occasion, gone is the persistent and overwhelming sense of dread. And where the previous three pictures added to the increasingly intriguing mythology of the mischievous and malevolent demon that torments the saga’s poor souls, this one spins its narrative wheels ensuring that nobody could take away anything of value from it. I said in my review of Paranormal Activity 3 that this was still "the funnest ride at the fair." The fairground hasn't just closed down; it's been torched.

As we discovered at the end of Part Three – a prequel – Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden) had been inducted into a witches coven by their grandmother as children. Though their memories were wiped, a demonic spectre eventually possessed the adult Katie, who in turn murdered Kristi and kidnapped her baby Hunter. Five years later, we meet a suburban family who have unfortunately - though not coincidentally - raised the ire of that same malicious force. Teenage Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her platonic buddy Ben (Matt Shively) are suspicious of creepy little boy next door, Robbie (Brady Allen), but her parents (Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee) are too distracted by their own issues to pay any attention. Robbie moves in with them when his mother is mysteriously whisked away by an ambulance, and he frequently absconds with Alex's 6-year-old brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) for secret meetings. The teens decide to set up a bunch of webcams around the house to document Robbie's peculiarities, and to hopefully figure out where all those booming noises he seemingly brought with him are coming from. You know what happens next.

Paranormal Activity 4 never adequately justifies the constant use of recording devices here, particularly considering how infrequently Alex actually checks the tapes. It makes little sense why she would record these ghostly goings-on if she never actually looks back on them. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, along with screenwriter Christopher Landon, introduce one notable new gimmick: the motion tracking sensor of an Xbox Kinect, only visible to a night vision camera. However, the emergence of an other-worldly and pixelated green figure amongst all those dots looks pretty silly, and only reminds us how smartly the lo-fi tricks in the original were deployed. As the budget for each subsequent film gets bigger, the inspiration dries up.

Think back to the opening frame of Oren Peli’s ingenious debut; a simple black screen with words of thanks from Paramount Pictures to the families of the subjects, and the San Diego Police Department. We can establish, then, that in this universe the authorities are aware of Katie's killing spree, and are thus attempting to track her down. Why waste time on an instalment that teaches us nothing more about the nefarious witches coven that has ensnared these families, and merely seeks to return us to the same state we found ourselves at the conclusion of Part Two? Why not give us the footage recorded by a documentary crew following the SDPD as they go on the hunt for this murderous woman? With the exception of this entry, I consider the Paranormal Activity franchise one of the best and most consistent horror series of all time. With an inevitable fifth Paranormal Activity likely around the corner, perhaps the producers will attempt something slightly more innovative. Then again, Robbie does warn Alex that his "invisible friend" doesn't like being watched. If the sequels are just going to devolve into unimaginative repetitions of the same shtick over and over again, maybe we should accept his request and turn the camera off for good.

The final shot is wonderfully disturbing, but it isn't quite worth the trip it takes to get there. Joost and Schulman, perhaps in an admission that they don’t know how to bring any originality to the fore, work in some flagrant references to horror classics like The Shining and The Innocents, and they do inspire a few laughs. Newton and Shively also have nice comic chemistry. Ultimately though, the humour recalls a magician who reaches into his bag of tricks only to wind up empty handed, and instead asks the crowd, “OK, well, do you guys like jokes?”

2/5

Check out Simon's other reviews here.

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Member Reviews (12)

i am hvae not whch it
Posted Wednesday, 5 February 2014 See my other reviews
Lloyd
says
It appears after the wild and scary part 3 the filmmakers are running out of ideas and here it shows. Alex would be awesome in her own film series as she seems out of place here. The film is mildly enjoyable but despite one or 2 good jump scenes the storyline is getting downright silly and the X-box night vision is their worst idea yet as it made my eyes burn. It should had been done the ONCE but it's overkill here looking more like an X-box advert. Let's hope Part 5 made for later this year improves as the series is getting old now.
Posted Saturday, 18 January 2014 See my other reviews
Charles
says
The most boring movie I've ever watched. More like a home movie done by some teenager with a new video camera that he received for his birthday.
Posted Monday, 23 September 2013 See my other reviews
lgb
says
The idea that this film is considered scary baffles me. I watched it and was bored for the first hour, I should't have to scan every frame of film for a scary moment and it's worse when I don't find one. Every time fridge door opened and cut off half the screen I was prepared for it to close and something scary to be standing there but it never happened. There's a scene in this movie which is a direct ripoff of The Shining (Look for the kid riding around on a big wheel) and the effects were so cartoony that I was just on the edge of laughing. The only time that I was genuinely scared was in the last 10 minutes which are very well done and do have a sense of dread... and then you get to the last image of the film and all fear is replaced with confusion. Give me Poltergeist or Exorcist any day.
Posted Sunday, 8 September 2013 See my other reviews
Ashley
says
Can't wait for the 5th instalment, a bit disappointed with the ending, I guess it keeps you wanting to see the next movie!
Posted Wednesday, 19 June 2013 See my other reviews
Shane I
says
was ok but a bit predicatable. Not as many scares as it's predecessors. Easily the weakest in the series
Posted Sunday, 28 April 2013 See my other reviews
Still a great movie, but have seen it all before so is loosing a bit of its scare factor.
Posted Monday, 1 April 2013 See my other reviews
Trish
says
Overrated, very predictable.
Posted Monday, 11 March 2013 See my other reviews
I have enjoyed all 4 of the PA movies...I am trying to work out how Alex's family adopted Wyatt (Hunter) when Katie had disappeared with him 5 years before. Did I miss something?
Posted Sunday, 10 March 2013 See my other reviews
Johnson
says
While the original was probably one of the scariest movies ever, this format has now run its day. Because you know how it works, you sit there scanning every long scene like a "Where's Wally" picture book: did that photo move? Did that door open a little? Becomes a bit boring really. Let's move on...
Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 See my other reviews
Louise
says
it was not as good as we hoped it would be. it was pretty lame, totally disappointed. hope there won't be another one.
Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 See my other reviews
jack
says
I don't see why people think these movies are so bad? They are excellent films! I'd call them a work of art. Yes they don't take long to make and they have a low budget but the quality and horror they produce is just spectacular! I'd watch this many times just like I have with the first 3! They're a must see for anyone in for a good scare.
Posted Monday, 17 December 2012 See my other reviews