Paranormal Activity 4 opens up with the found footage from the last movie. Katie, the boyfriend-slaying cult member is shown taking baby Hunter (her nephew) from his cradle after she murders her own sister. After essentially summarizing the first three films, the movie turns away from Katie and into the lives of a small suburban family. Oldest daughter, Alex, Skypes with her boyfriend the majority of the movie, making our eyes the small video chatting camera on her computer. When the woman next door (Katie) is summoned away in an ambulance, the family takes in her only son, Robbie, as a guest until she can return home.
Right off the bat, this kid is creepy, hanging out in tree houses alone at midnight, talking to invisible friends (that’s right, Toby the demon is back), and riding his scooter around the house like the boy from The Shining. Obviously Katie is up to witchcraft, but quickly her “son” begins to terrorize Wyatt, the youngest child in the house. As usual, the parents are worthless, disbelieving everything Alex and the boyfriend can prove with their Skype video records. Mayhem ensues with plenty of night scenes that will make everyone think twice about what happens to them when they fall asleep.
Thankfully, Katie Featherston returns to play Katie again, which really brings back the feel of the first film. She is joined by newcomers Matt Shively, Brady Allen, and Kathryn Newton who all play the haunted next-door neighbors. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman also return to direct their second Paranormal film.
Paranormal Activity 4 had a lot to live up to. Frankly, I was expecting an over-budgeted attempt at a remake of the first three, which were all pretty horrifying. Unfortunately, this movie lacked the simplicity of its prequels, drowning itself in a complicated plot. But as far as horror flicks go, it hits the mark. Cult witchcraft, creepy children and stupid teenagers made it into the mainstream scary movie that we’re so desensitized to. As an avid fan of the Paranormal series, I left disappointed in the screenplay and stylistic aspects. The first three movies terrorized audiences with agonizingly slow actions such as a bed sheet sliding off someone’s sleeping body for a whole minute. PA4 instead relied on pop outs, completely straying away from what made the series so lovable. There were no moments of complete silence, or still shots with a digital clock ticking away in the corner; everything seemed so rushed.
The film started off scary, with a pop out in the second or third scene, as if the filmmakers were constantly reminding us that we were waiting for a horror film. The audience also grew weary of the fake pop outs (like when a cat randomly jumped across screen) that seemed to exist just for laughs. Even after all those complaints, the movie was still terrifying in the end. Much like the structure of its predecessors, the big ghostly encounters are stacked up within the last three minutes of footage; successfully scaring you for the lonely car ride home. Had the movie ended four minutes earlier though, I would have left without a scream.
The audience truly enjoyed the movie, and honestly, so did I. My complaints only stem from my admiration for the other three movies. As far as horror films go, this was an enjoyable, heart racing film, but as far as Paranormal movies go, this was the worst. It’s all about how you choose to look at it, but if you’re searching for a scare that will literally leave you shaking, PA4 is worth it.
by Olivia Sone