Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
31Jan/130

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Very little nightvision hereAndrew DISLIKE BannerEvery October, the Paranormal Activity series lurches back into theaters with all the creativity of a record scratch repeating the same tired beats as the last year.  The first one was an event film driven more by a marketing campaign that showed a bunch of easily scared people jumping out of their seats.  Now the series has grown increasingly bloated under its own success and has an unnecessary mythology.  If the tagline is to be believed what we've seen over the last three years has led to this moment - another retread of the exact same scares with the only differing aspect being the run-time.

Please tell me if you are reading this review and felt any kind of dread watching the film.  Not of the existential "Why am I wasting my time watching this?" variety but more the kind of fear the film intends to manufacture.  In Paranormal Activity 3 the scares were downgraded to dust bending over a figure and a light-bulb exploding.  For this fourth lap around things fall and that's about it.  Aside from the now standard demon rampage to close out the film, gravity is the ultimate evil.

This film may be horrible, but at least the cat is cute.

A much better way to spend the evening.

For those of you keeping up with the mythology - Paranormal Activity 4 picks up a few years after 2 when Katie (Katie Featherton - who is already signed up for 5) succumbed to the demonic possession of the first film, slaughtered her family, and stole the wee baby Hunter.  The movie starts with a family going trick or treating and wondering aloud about the mysterious new neighbors who have moved in across the street.  The primary focus is through Alex (Kathryn Newton) who begins to think strange things are afoot when the neighbor's kid (Brady Allen) starts showing up in her playhouse and drawing symbols of the occult on her little brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp).

Then things starts falling and the pattern emerges yet again.  There's the research montage of the damned, the surveillance set-up, the repeated incredulity of skeptics, and lot's of things falling.  In the previous films they at least had a visually interesting vantage point to look at the action from (the rough VHS of 3, the night-vision of 1) but now it's the same sort of crystal clear digital photography you can get from any other movie.  The only real experimentation comes from the dubiously scary use of an XBox Kinect sensor to fill the screen and see vague figures come into view in a sea of green dots.  If you like sudden headaches then those moments will be right up your alley, just don't expect to be scared.

The film even falls into the trap of "Don't remind your audience of better movies."  Wyatt is shown riding his tricycle throughout the home done up in a costume to resemble little Danny from The Shining right down to the shaggy bowl cut as chairs begin to move in front of him.  It's the first direct homage to any horror film outside of the series' little universe and it makes no sense.  "Kids like tricycles therefore demons" is my hypothesis and I'm open to other suggestions.

It's not a good sign when the centerpiece of your horror film looks like the world's safest rave.

It's not a good sign when the centerpiece of your horror film looks like the world's safest rave.

Hilarious endings aside, this entire series is a complete waste of time.  There was a little novelty in the first film undone by some of the worst acting committed to film (at least the sequels improve on this) and now they just run the same course.  Of course, I'll probably be back later on this year with a fresh review of Paranormal Activity 5 because I need to know how this rich story is going to end, but that's due to existing professional hazards than any real desire to watch yet another set of doors opening.

If any fans of the series are still reading I want you, on opening weekend of Paranormal Activity 5, to try an experiment.  Sit in a dark room with your computer, barring that your phone, with your back to the door.  Instruct a friend to wait outside and count to 60 Mississippi and, once done, quickly swish a piece of paper in your line of vision.  At this point congratulate yourself and your friend - for you have recreated the entirety of the scares of a multimillion dollar franchise.

Paranormal Activity 4 - TailParanormal Activity 4 (2012)
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.
Starring Kathryn Newton, Aiden Lovekamp, and Brady Allen.

Posted by Andrew

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