Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 4
By Matthew Huntley
October 29, 2012
“All activity has led to this,” reads the tagline for Paranormal Activity 4. Great, so does this mean the franchise can now end? If not, then next Halloween I’ll be asking, in regards to Paranormal Activity 5, “What, exactly, has led to this one?” I’m curious what the filmmakers would say. Of course, I already know what the studio would say - that the return on these low budget horror movies is so high they couldn’t pass up the chance to make another hefty profit. Too bad the audience still gets shortchanged.
As it is, Paranormal Activity 4 is not scary, although it has made my worst fears come true: the series has now descended into mediocrity and become boring. At this point, three sequels in, it’s simply going through the motions - the motions of a Paranormal Activity movie. They are officially predictable and offer nothing in the way of surprises. I no longer care about the characters or the supernatural forces tied to them. It’s just the same, though, since the movie doesn’t seem to, either. All it cares about is following the same formula as its predecessors to generate the same shocks and thrills as before instead of finding ways to create new ones.
Speaking of its formula, it’s getting old. Once again (that’s a common phrase for horror sequels), the movie plays out as a compilation of found footage and the excuse for recording everything stems from a teenage girl named Alex (Kathryn Newton) believing there’s an entity living inside her family’s suburban Colorado home. One night, she and her pal Ben (Matt Shively) record themselves having a dance party with a specialized night vision on their camera turned on. This allows them to see an inexplicable being in the shape of a little boy moving around the house.
The apparition seems to be attached to the creepy little kid from next-door, Robbie (Brady Allen), who’s staying with Alex and her family while his mother is in the hospital. One night, she was mysteriously taken away in an ambulance and Alex’s mom and dad (Alexondra Lee and Stephen Dunham) agree to watch him. Robbie has taken somewhat of an unhealthy interest in Alex’s adopted little brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), going so far as to show up alone at Wyatt’s soccer game, camping out in his tree house without permission and drawing mysterious, coven-inspired symbols on his back.
Needless to say, something isn’t right about Robbie and strange things start happening when he’s around, like inanimate objects moving on their own and people getting tossed in the air without respect to the laws of physics.
But if you’re at all familiar with the Paranormal Activity movies, does any of this surprise you? More importantly, do you care? Fans of the series may be curious who Robbie’s mother turns out to be, who you might say is evil manifest, but so little is disclosed about the evil’s motivation or background, we’ve grown disinterested. It’s no longer intriguing or fun for the menace of Paranormal Activity, which is a demon of some sort, to be elusive and non-descript. It’s now taken on the qualities of a Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees or Freddy Krueger - it kills and torments for the sake of killing and tormenting. Honestly, I don’t care if things get explained in Paranormal Activity 5 or not. At this point, I’m tuned out.
To be fair, seeing Paranormal Activity 4 wasn’t a complete waste of time. I did get a kick out of watching and listening to the other audience members, who still scream, tense up and laugh at themselves. But no offense to them, they’re not worth the price of admission. Plus, with each Paranormal Activity movie that comes out, those types of reactions become fewer and farther between. The filmmakers must know this by now. They should take it as a sign to close up shop and move on. At least then they can be remembered for ending a series that steadily declined in quality instead of one that jumped ship entirely, which this one is in serious danger of doing.