Paranormal Activity 4 Review
Posted by Joseph Lee on 10.23.2012
All of the activity has led to...a very mediocre sequel.
*Kathryn Newton as Alex Nelson
*Matt Shively as Ben
*Brady Allen as Robbie
*Aiden Lovekamp as Wyatt Nelson
*Alexondra Lee as Holly Nelson
*Stephen Dunham as Doug Nelson
*Katie Featherston as Katie
Story: It has been five years since the disappearance of Katie and Hunter, and a suburban family witness strange events in their neighborhood when a woman and a mysterious child move in.
Trivia: Stephen Dunham, who plays the father, Doug, passed away in September and was unable to see the release of this film.
Sometimes its hard to be a fan of a horror franchise. If a bad sequel comes out, some people will declare it to be the death of the franchise and others will say the entire series has been terrible. Those people are entitled to their opinions, but it's hard to be a fan when the series puts out an extremely lazy sequel just to keep it going. Saw fans had this same thing happen after Saw III was a fitting end to that series and Saw IV came out and wasn't nearly as good. Personally, I enjoyed it, but the franchise was definitely showing its age and would never hit the heights of the first three again.
Paranormal Activity fans may be wondering if this franchise is heading in that same direction. The first film was a great suspenseful effort that received a mostly favorable reaction from horror fans. The second earned a mixed reaction but still had some decent moments. Last year's prequel, Paranormal Activity 3 was a solid return to form with better scares and deepening the series' mythology. But Paranormal Activity 4 is not only without a doubt the worst of the franchise, but it's just a bad movie as well.
The thing you'll notice about 4 is that it's incredibly lazy. First of all, while the other films used the time in between scares to build tension (including Activity 3's brilliant "fan cam"), this simply sits and stares at a scene before switching to a new one. It may be because it's built in to expect something to happen but there are no attempts to be clever in setting up the scares, relying not on established tension but jump scares after moments of quiet with no build. The movie even does this through the editing, suddenly cutting to something innocent that's just making a loud noise. Say what you will about the last three movies, but at least there seemed to be an effort.
Activity 4 is just not scary. There are no moments that get under the skin, no suspense is built and the jump scares don't really work either. It's a pale comparison to the other films in the series which at least had one or two really good moments in them (such as Paranormal Activity 2, which had the scene with the cabinets). The fourth entry fails to scare on any kind of level, mostly due to the fact that there doesn't seem to be any effort put into it.
Next, the long-awaited answers that filmmakers and advertising have promised are not seen here. If you watched Paranormal Activity 4 hoping to discover the true purpose of the demon, what exactly happened to Hunter after the second film or the nature of the coven revealed in the third, you'll be waiting a while longer. If this sequel is any indication, the series is now going to just put forth the same formula while offering very little answers for the fans and just raising more questions. If it's all paid off in a fifth film, that's one thing, but it should have been all paid off here. If you want a Paranormal Activity TV series, make it a TV series. Don't drag the fans along and hit them with a bait and switch.
There is one gimmick that provided some interest and that's the obvious product placement of the Xbox Kinect. I'm not sure if the motion sensor dots can actually be seen on infrared or not, but it is a clever way to show the demon and at least attempt to do something. Unfortunately, its never paid off adequately and like so many other set pieces in this film, is just wasted opportunity. Bait and switch just applies so much here because the movie sets things up and doesn't pay them off.
Finally, the film is just dull. If there's no scares or no chance to learn anything about what's going on, then it's hard to care about the events going on in this movie. That's thankfully helped by some decent acting from the child actors and Kathryn Newton, who more or less has to carry the film as the lead actress. She's certainly a step up from the days of Micah in Paranormal Activity, who was completely unlikable. But they're just trying too hard for a movie that doesn't seem to anything worthwhile in its 84 minutes (which feel very long thanks to the sluggish pace).
If you're not a fan of the series, the failure of Paranormal Activity 4 will not surprise you. However, for those who have enjoyed the previous three films, this is a large disappointment.
The 411: If there's one thing Paranormal Activity 4 proves, its that Hollywood doesn't know when to quit when it's ahead. It lack scares, any clear answers that have been promised to fans for years now and there's really nothing worth watching until the final five minutes. It's already been confirmed that there will be a fifth film, which could really determine for fans if this series is on its way out or just had a brief stumble.