Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 4

Stars: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively

Rated R for language and some violence/terror, Running time 88 minutes, Horror/Mystery

Compare to: The Messengers (2007), The Last Exorcism (2010)

It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in a dark auditorium watching the home movie recordings of a haunted house/possessed family, the other audience members screaming every time a loud thump was sounded. But it wasn’t yesterday, it was last year. And I had the same feeling in 2011, but that was recalling back to 2010. Do you get the point? These movies all feel the same.

Is that a bad thing? Well, bad is a strong word. But the series has gotten slightly stale in its delivery. In a series that hinges on it’s endings, those are what might be the most predictable aspect of the movies. The tricks and gags used throughout the film are still fun but it’s the supposed twists and “surprises” that leave the film in a wanton state.

Still using the handheld camera techniques, Paranormal Activity 4 focuses on a family that lives next door to a very strange boy, a boy presumed to be the child that was taken by his possessed aunt in the events of the first Activity. After he starts showing up at his neighbor’s house, strange things begin to happen, and it’s all caught on film.

Certain things I really give this movie and its predecessors for. The movies overall have cost around nine million dollars, though they’ve made nearly six hundred million. Yeah, so if you’re wondering why they keep making them, there’s your answer.

Camera angles are still used as effectively as possible, night vision having its particularly creepy moments involving infrared motion dots left all over the living room from the X-Box Kinect. To see anything move on camera caused an audience to shiver in unison. One thing this particular series is a fan of is the especially creepy use of beings or spirits being in the room with our protagonists, but not being noticeable until you’re already too weirded out to stop watching. As soon as you let your guard down, something happens.

Possibly the best thing I’ve noticed of this series, and credit would go to the casting director, are the extremely talented kids that are chosen for their respective roles. The two little girls in Paranormal Activity 3 were unbelievably convincing and even made the film worth watching while the two boys in 4 are possibly just as good. They’re creepy due to the context of the film, but natural in their delivery.

The problem for these films comes in at the moment when you realize that this isn’t going to be any different than the last two. We’re not going to really go any further in the story until the last five minutes and even then, it’s not taking us deeper into the Activity-lore so much as it is presenting us with surprises that come a faster, louder pace than the previous scares. It seems like we should know by now that whatever twists wait for us are ones that will make us say “Oh” rather than “Ohhhhhh…”

Something else that annoys me personally are the scenes that take us into the family’s personal moments so deep I feel slightly uncomfortable watching them as well as turned off. I don’t care to hear a 16-year old ask his girlfriend in multiple scenes about possibly having sex or asking to have her flash him. On one hand, we do have some form of realism because hey, he’s a teenage boy; on the other hand, they’re the creepiest parts of the film when I imagine some weirdo getting too much enjoyment out of these parts.

If you liked the others and have to see this one, go for it. If you were already tired by the third one, might as well give up on the series altogether. While the series does have more and more of a story with each movie, it also seems to be leading down a “to be continued” path that should be left for television.

Grade: C+

Side Note: While brief (What do you expect?), there is a post-credits scene.

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