Review it!: Paranormal Activity 4

With Hollywood running out of ideas to create original movies, it make sense to see them try to suck water out of a stone, and with Paranormal Activity 4, it feels like just that.

Have you seen those commercials with all the people jumping and screaming and really looking stupid? Well, I attended such a screening and I’m sorry to burst your bubble folks, but it’s not “real”. Prior to watching the film I signed a release form that basically allows Paramount Pictures to use my likeness to market the film. Before the film even starts we get a friendly reminder that “if our reactions are good, we might end up on TV”. Take it how you want, but to me it implied “act super scared and over-the-top and you’ll be famous” – for a least 1.5 seconds, which is good enough for me.

Paranormal Activity 4, what can I say that hasn’t already been said in the first 3 films. The film takes place five years after Paranormal Activity 2, which ended with Katie abducting baby Hunter. It follows the life of teen Alex (Kathryn Newton), her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively), her mother, father and her little brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), as paranormal activity begins to occur in their home when Katie (Katie Featherston) and Robbie (Brady Allen) move into the neighborhood. MacBook’s are among the key pieces of technology utilized in the film (because the girls family is so rich, they have Macs in every room of the house), as well as smartphones, a Canon XA10 and a Kinect (which is greatly over used). After Katie is suddenly taken to a hospital, Alex’s mom takes Robbie into their home, which leads to strange phenomena occurring inside the house. Obviously the plot isn’t rocket science, someone needs to get haunted and it might as well be these people.

What started out in 2007 as an effective found footage horror about a family being terrorized by a supernatural force has really turned into an almost plotless, pointless, unscary, and probably one of the most unnecessary sequels ever. The basic found-footage concept has been over played and over done. So many mainstream films are doing it these days and I don’t know about you, but I’m truly sick of it.

Most of the film follows Alex, who spends way too much time interacting with her boyfriend, Ben online. Then when they do see each other in person; all they do is talk about their online interactions. There’s really no reason to dive into the rest of the plot; it’s enough to say that they have the bright idea of recording the ghostly happenings by using a network of webcams, and it really lacks in scare factor. Remember in Paranormal Activity 3 when an entire kitchen vanished only to come crashing to the tile floor? Well, in Paranormal Activity 4, a knife goes missing from the kitchen – are we scared yet? This perfectly sums up this latest “activity”.

Paranormal Activity 4 tries to give us a wow factor by using “new technology” aside from normal use of webcams, laptops, and camcorders; they use an Xbox 360 and its motion-sensing Kinect device. Viewed through a nightvision camera, the Kinect turns the room into an 80’s nightclub filled with motion-sensing green dots. Unfortunately, the “excitement” doesn’t last, once you’ve seen your first shadowy figure move across the room full of green dots, the toy is pretty much played out. Compared to the video camera mounted on a rotating fan from the third film, Paranormal Activity 4 proves there’s only so much that can be done when you don’t have any new ideas.

In the end, Paranormal Activity 4 is nothing but contrived scares. Just moving a chair a couple feet just doesn’t do it for me. Having Alex’s younger brother riding around the house on a Big Wheel (just like in The Omen) doesn’t scream originality. It’s less shocking than any of its predecessors, and all the big moments are in the movie’s last ten minutes. But by then; you’ve suffered through 90 minutes worth of shots of empty rooms, and if you are lucky, you haven’t overdosed on the enormous amount of ephedra that you took so you wouldn’t fall asleep from the snooze fest happening on the screen.

Even with the thought that we might be in a commercial, it was impossible for this audience to fake terrorization. It’s the fourth film in the franchise, things shouldn’t be going backwards, shit should be off the hook by now — which is why I give Paranormal Activity 4 a 2/10.

Felix Kay,
Catch Movie reviews by @TheFelixKay every Thursday on Vancity Buzz.


“Paranormal Activity 4,” is rated R for language and some violence/terror. Running time: 95 minutes. In theatres everywhere October 19th, 2012