Paranormal Activity 4

Paranormal Activity 4Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) — Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Starring Kathryn Newton, Matt Shivley, Aiden Lovekamp, Brady Allen, Katie Featherston, Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee.

Last year Paranormal Activity 3 took me by surprise by scaring the bejesus out of me. I was so thrilled I almost went to the theater to see Paranormal Activity 4 but the buzz for it was negative and I was getting burned out on haunted house films at the time. I reluctantly decided to wait until this year’s marathon to get caught up on the series.

Since all the critics pretty much took a dump on it, I expected to hate Paranormal Activity 4. I darn near looked forward to hating it. After all, writing a review for a movie I can’t stand is usually easier. But… I didn’t hate it. In spite of my expectations and the negative reviews almost across the board… I enjoyed PA4. Which kind of sucks because now this review is going to be a pain in the ass to write.

You might recall (SPOILER for a lousy movie so who really cares!) that at the end of Paranormal Activity 2 Katie, who became possessed by a demon in the original Paranormal Activity, kidnapped her nephew, Hunter, after killing the boy’s mother. The third movie suspended that storyline and bounced us back to 1988 to explore the freaky events the sisters went through as children. We would have to wait until the fourth movie to see what horrible, evil plans Katie-demon devised for poor little Hunter.

Which brings us to Paranormal Activity 4 where we meet a teenage girl named Alex Nelson (Kathryn Newton). Hi, Alex! Her family has taken on a temporary house guest, Robbie (Brady Allen), the creepy neighbor boy from across the street whose mother is in the hospital after falling ill. Why are the Nelsons selected to care for the young child? Plot conveniences, I suppose. Anyway, strange things have started happening around the Nelson home ever since he arrived and he’s taken an unusual interest in Alex’s younger brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). Intrigued by the strange events, Alex’s boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) sets up all of the camera-equipped computers around the house to record the paranormal activity, disk space be damned!

Paranormal Activity 4‘s flaws stand out a bit more in retrospect but they didn’t bother me as I watched the movie. Most of the tension in Paranormal Activity films comes from the anticipation of something happening, waiting and watching the screen for something to appear. I can understand why this would put most people off but I kind of like that aspect of these movies. Though I admit, the false scares get tiresome and the “real” scares sometimes aren’t as effective as they could be.

The incorporation of up to date technology did not provide any new tricks that were nearly as clever as the oscillating fan in PA3 but maybe that flash of brilliance is too difficult to recapture. The closest they come is revealing the Kinect’s infrared dots through a camera’s night vision mode. Several scenes are filmed this way and it looks wild.  This is not the “fan-cam” but there are a couple of eerie moments borne from the technique.

PA4 holds a couple of exciting bits, including a nerve-wracking sequence where a character is trapped in the garage. The final moments of the film also provide a couple of thrills but the ending felt cut short. By the time it’s over I realized how little PA4 does to move forward the overall story of the series. To discuss much more would spoil the plot but let’s just say that other than jumping forward five years from the events of PA2, we pretty much end up right back where we started, which is a little frustrating for a movie with the tagline, “All the activity has led to this.” But maybe part of the trick to enjoying Paranormal Activity films is to not care about the story and, if found footage is your thing, just get on the haunted house thrill ride. Seems to be what works for me.

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