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Paranormal Activity 4 (A Movie Review)

Paranormal Activity 4


Starring Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovekamp, Alexondra Lee, Stephen Dunham and Katie Featherston.

Screenplay by Christopher B. Landon.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  88 minutes.  Rated R.

The Paranormal Activity series has been good for four movies in four years.  There is an argument as to whether they should have ever followed up the terrific original, which stumbled into a shocking zeitgeist popularity due to its do-it-yourself ultra-low-budget uniqueness.  The problem with uniqueness is that you can hardly ever recreate it, and you certainly can’t do it annually.  Yet while PA 2 and PA 3 have been greeted with consistently less critical and popular interest, but the films are so cheap to make that they still made a profit.  Therefore, here comes Part 4 – and the movie closes out with an apparent hint of a coming PA 5.

Paranormal Activity 4 is better than the third chapter, even arguably better than the second, and yet it still seems a little superfluous.

At least the series is moving forward in time again.  PA 2 was a prequel, taking place soon before the events of Paranormal Activity.  PA 3 was another prequel, taking place 20 or so years before the first.  Paranormal Activity 4 returns us to the present day, starting at the end of PA 2 with the breakout star of the original Katie Featherston (playing a character with the same name as the actress, but hopefully they aren’t much alike) kidnapping her nephew after decimating her sister’s family under the influence of an evil demon. 

Flash forward a few years, to a house near the old family home of the family’s grandparents that was introduced in the end of the third film.  For the first time, we have an all new family, a squabbling middle class husband and wife with a cute 15 year old daughter and eight year old adopted son.  However, an odd family has moved into the weird house next door, a quiet mom (who looks a whole lot like Katie Featherston, not that these people would know that) and her odd little boy who is the same age. 

It quickly turns out that the family’s adopted son may be the kidnapped nephew shown in the beginning, though that gets the audience thinking – how did he get into the adoption pool?  We last saw him being taken by his bloody demon aunt, how did he end up with this family?  And if Katie still cared about him enough to track him down now, why did she ever let him get away?

However, if you try to close all plot loopholes in Paranormal Activity movies – even in the well-made first one – you are on a fool’s errand. 

While this episode revolves around the little boy, the star is the teen girl.  Alex is a pretty and smart girl who obsesses about the normal teen traumas while slightly teasing her nerdy wannabe boyfriend Ben. 

She becomes pissed off when her family takes in the creepy kid down the street when mom is taken to the hospital in the middle of the night.  This turns into an extended stay of over a week and the more the kid acts weird, the more that weird things happen in the house – loud crashes, balls bouncing down the stairs in the middle of the night, chandeliers falling.

Therefore, Alex has Ben set up laptops to record everything happening in the house 24/7.  Unlike the previous movies which are 100% done on camcorders, PA 4 adds video chats and cell phones to the mix.

There are too many fake-out scares (how many times is the cat going to jump up by a lap top?) and not enough new ideas.  Also, the people here do the absolute dumbest thing at the absolute worst time.  (If you’re worried by an evil demonic spirit and run out of your home in the night, would you really go straight to the house you think is even creepier than yours?)

It’s all become rather predictable by now, but still has some true chills mixed in through out.  The story doesn’t make much sense and the final shot is even more ridiculous than the final shot of PA 3, but if you have enjoyed the previous chapters, chances are good you’ll buy into this one. 

Still, if Paranormal Activity wants to keep being a Halloween tradition, they are going to have to shake up the series a bit with some new ideas.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: February 5, 2013.

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