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Paranormal Activity 4 – 4

Director – Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Cast – Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I have remained a fan of the Paranormal Activity series over the years, and I felt that Paranormal Activity 3 should have closed out the films for eternity. When I first heard of this sequel I was of course not the least bit surprised the filmmakers were going for another shot at easy money, but I was a little excited as well. I enjoyed the first three installments, with Paranormal Activity 2 being my favorite, but once I saw the trailer for this piece my excitement was gone. You cannot always tell everything about a film just by viewing a trailer, but my initial suspicion that the film would be a bland and stagnant mess that did little to further the story was proven correct – making for the worst and most unnecessary entry in this lazy but celebrated horror franchise.

Five years after Katie disappears with her nephew, Hunter, a suburban family begins to experience odd and terrifying supernatural occurrences when Katie and a strange young boy move in across the street.

Well I was not excited going into this experience, which happens often when I see a film that I really do not want to see but give a watch to so I can write a review on it. If you are expecting anything different in this piece, in comparison to its predecessors, then you will not be given what you seek. The story does add a few new tricks to the video technology used to capture the “activity”, but overall it is the same gimmick, so expect more of the same.

The story starts off by introducing our main character, Alex, and her tech savvy boyfriend also named Alex, and their heavy reliance on laptop webcams to keep in touch. The female Alex mentions a young boy named Robbie who moved in across the street, a boy who wanders about their property in the middle of the night sometimes. When a tragedy occurs to the Robbie’s mother, Alex’s mother graciously takes the boy into their home while his mother recovers, and that is when things start to get freaky. At first it is strange loud thumps, then objects begin to move on their own, and then the young boy takes on a strange fascination with Alex’s younger brother, Wyatt. With her parents not interested in her belief that the young boy is causing strange occurrences around the home, Alex is forced to set up multiple webcams to record the home when no one is around, and the events caught on tape were a little creepy but nothing special.

Unlike the previous entries to the franchise, Paranormal Activity 4 comes with many more faults than positives. For starters, the story is nothing special, has nothing interesting to offer, and is even downright stupid at times. First off, we are never made aware of how Alex got a hold of a fancy personal camera, or why she even carries it with her everywhere to begin with. This simple explanation was never an issue in the previous installments, an it plays a role in how serious to take this story. This and many other faults played into how stupid the story was at times, but the biggest fault was the story not progressing the overall story very much. The first three entries did a decent job at developing the story into what it was at the end of Paranormal Activity 3, but this effort was the laziest so far and left us with very little to learn from it. While Alex and her boyfriend were easy to follow and played their roles, I was not fond of the usage of the other characters in the film. Her parents, despite having obvious wealth and success, were as stupid and naïve as they get, and I absolutely hated how Katie was used in the film.

So how were the scares in this entry to one of horror’s scariest franchises? They were decent, and a few of them gave me moderate chills, but we were never exposed to shocking scares like we were in the first two entries. I give most of the blame to the writing given most of the scares were just to simple to be scary, but the direction could have aided this poor story.

Catfish and Paranormal Activity 3 directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman return to direct this sequel, and while it comes well shot it was far from the better experience they delivered a year ago. The atmosphere in this piece was way too dull and generic, with a home that did not set us up for any scares but looked like a display home used by homebuilders to sell their product (Arrested Development anyone?). The acting performances were positive overall though, with the Brady Allen stealing the show as the dreadfully creepy young Robbie. Of course, I mentioned earlier that I absolutely hated how Katie was used, and that includes the execution of her character as well. I will blame both the actress and the directors for how she came off in the film, which was just like the atmosphere, dull and unlikable. Their execution of the scares could have been improved, but in the end I think the scares were too simple to be scary, such as a knife disappearing from a kitchen counter. Yup, that was a legitimate “scare” in the film.

Overall, Paranormal Activity 4 is a sad entry into this otherwise positive franchise that seems to be on its last leg quality-wise. The story is stupid and erupts into numerous faults, and with only moderate direction this film was doomed from the start.

Rating: 4/10

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