DVD Review: Paranormal Activity 4

The activity continues in 'Paranormal Activity 4.'

The activity continues in ‘Paranormal Activity 4.’

Let’s start off with the little good in Paranormal Activity 4, the fourth and slightest entry in Oren Peli’s breakout found footage horror series.

Lead Kathryn Newton is surprisingly strong, and she makes the audience care about her character Alex. The suburban teen’s interactions with neighborhood boy Ben (Matt Shively), laden with flirtation and humor, are the film’s only organic, truthful moments. Unlike previous main characters like Micah (Micha Sloat), Daniel (Brian Boland), and Dennis (Chris Smith), all irritating and irrational jerks, Alex is an innocent, and the audience is actually pulling for her to make it through. Newton and Shively give compelling, realistic performances, filled with teenage angst and awkwardness. The audience grows to like them.

Alex is recording strange occurrences in her house after her little brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) grows close with creepy new neighbor Robbie (Brady Allen) and his ‘invisible friend.’ With Ben’s help, Alex is able to set up cameras all around her house in hopes of getting to the bottom of what’s happening. Predictably, she doesn’t like what she finds.

Sadly, with the exception of the film’s two leads, everything in Paranormal Activity 4 feels threadbare. The entire film is nothing but scraps from the previous entries in the series. Whereas the methods of found footage in the previous films felt believable and added to the suspense, here it feels forced. Why the main character is recording everything is never clearly addressed, nor are any of the plot points from previous installments. When the directors attempt to sexualize the 15-year-old protagonist with revealing clothing, it feels sleazy and uncomfortable, adding nothing to the film other than to reveal how desperate the franchise has become. The scares are minimal, and though there are a few jump-out moments, nothing is on the level of any of the previous films. XBOX Kinect tracking dots and video-chats are clever ideas to record more activity, but none of it really works, and it was my patience, not nerves, that was fraying by the end of the film.

Of course the demon-possessed Katie (Katie Featherston) shows up, but everything in this fourth entry is too meager to make a difference. After building the mythology of the series in Paranormal Activity 3, writer-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman add practically nothing in this installment, only tossing in a few related images at the very end of the film. The film’s ending is a cop-out, plain and simple, ruining the suspense that the film has built with a single, crappy-looking scary image and a ridiculous ‘twist’ that doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Though it was billed as a sequel to Paranormal Activity, the fourth installment feels more like a teaser for upcoming entries. Paranormal Activity 4 is the least substantial one in the series by far, but it still feels overlong and tedious. The original’s spirit of innovative terror has been exorcised almost completely, leaving an empty shell with dismayingly few actual scares. It’s a ghost of its former self. D+

Image courtesy: Chocraisins.blogspot.

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