Paranormal Activity 4: A tragic disappointment
By Jayson Burns
For those who could get past the terrible filming style, the Paranormal Activity series has been an excellent addition to the “found-footage” and haunting genres. There are plenty of scares to be had in each film, with an overarching story that’s actually pretty interesting. To no one’s surprise, audiences were given Paranormal Activity 4, which was set to continue where the second installment left off. Unfortunately, this release has shown the film franchise is starting to dwindle in quality.
Taking place about four years after the events of the Paranormal Activity 2, the film follows the teenage Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her family as they are introduced to a new neighbor kid, Robbie (Brady Allen). When the boy’s mother is rushed to the hospital for mysterious reasons, the family takes him in for a few days, during which they discover his strange quirks. As prompted by her boyfriend (Matt Shively), Alex sets up several laptops in the house to capture Robbie as he supposedly interacts with an unseen force. Just like with the other films, Alex may have delved in too deep.
While this was an acceptable way to continue the series, Paranormal Activity 4 mostly felt like a bridge for the inevitable sequel — which is poorly hinted at after the end credits. Everything just felt tame and slow compared to the demon Toby’s antics in the previous movies, with most of the scares either coming from fake-outs or something going past the screen really fast. There were still some quality scenes, pretty much everything involving the Kinect sensors, and Toby still proves to be an intimidating figure. None of that, though, makes up for the terrible, anti-climactic ending.
It’s a little difficult to talk about the acting as a whole because most of the characters aren’t given much time to develop, but it’s all admittedly decent. Katie Featherston as the character Katie, from the other films, performs just as well as she has in the past. Kathryn Newton does a decent job as the new lead role and Aiden Lovekamp and Brady Allen are good for child actors. As the boyfriend, Matt Shively was a little annoying at first, but he managed to become a pretty likable character by the end. The parents have little to do with anything, however, so they’re forgettable.
One thing the series has always tried to do is find some new way to make the audience uneasy, like the rotating fan-camera in the third film. This time, the filmmakers use the sensor dots of the Kinect game system to great effect. All of the effects carry on with the tradition of the previous installments. Still, there is an overuse of jarring edits meant to cheaply scare the audience, and some of the pacing became distracting at points; one moment, a character is being grabbed by an unseen force, and the next she’s outside with a camera. When did she have time, or the senses, to grab the camera?
Paranormal Activity 4 may retain some of the old magic that made the series so enjoyable, but its biggest sin is simply not giving much more.