Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

I have a lot of respect for anyone who has enough impetus, drive and ambition to get a movie made. In fact, just yesterday, I had a discussion on the subject with a fellow film fan. What I cannot find it in me to respect, however, is a dull addition to a rapidly declining franchise that’s been cynically studio-made with no love for the genre it sits in or the audience it bores.

Paranormal Activity 4 loosely ties into the over arching story in the most tenuous way possible, with the protagonist from PA1 and the sister of PA2′s principal character returning to propel the typically haunted proceedings. I won’t insult your intelligence by detailing the “plot” of the Paranormal Acitivty films as you’re either already on board or, hopefully, won’t be starting here.

15 year old Alex and her obnoxious boyfriend Ben are our protagonists here and, unlike the somewhat sympathetic family oriented characters that have come before them, they’re vacuous teens who immediately grate and fail to endear themselves in even the smallest way. Katie and her “son” Hunter have moved in across the street and when Alex’s parents end up having to take Hunter into their home at short notice, strange things start to happen to all involved.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (famous for ‘is it, isn’t it real?’ documentary Catfish and the underwhelming third entry to the Paranormal Activity canon), Paranormal Activity 4 is, sadly, devoid of any of the necessary character development or the emotional angle required to make us care. Arguably the least engaging addition to the franchise, PA4 does nothing that it’s predecessors didn’t do more effectively and adds almost nothing to the collective found footage pot of ideas.

The film is set in 2011, five years after initial events, and in an attempt to keep up with the fast moving technology available and to keep the material fresh, Joost and Schulman have utilised a number of things, most notably an abundance of video chat footage between Alex and Ben, and an absolute overabundance of Xbox Kinect related scenes.

What is, at first, quite an intriguing technique, which looks like a grainy cross between night vision and motion capture dots, soon becomes tiresome in its overuse. Scene after scene of indistinguishable green and black shapes does not a scary movie make.

The story at the centre of Paranormal Activity 4 is wafer thin, at best. The makers have eschewed a cohesive, compelling plot in favour of a sequence of lazily plotted set pieces and by the time the family start suffering their inevitable, untimely demises, most sane audience members will have lost interest entirely. PA4 also suffers from being sinfully anti climactic, fizzling out rather than ending with the typical bang that we’ve come to expect from these films and their ilk.

Boasting only one or two relatively effective jump scares, Paranormal Activity 4 is otherwise devoid of anything to recommend it. Where the others were repetitive but occasionally genuinely frightening, this fourth in the series falls disappointingly flat at every turn. I can only hope that it’ll serve as a wake up call and that the already announced fifth installment is a bit more inventive, rather than serving as lazy Halloween fodder, designed to fill a Saw shaped hole each year. There’s also a very heavy handed ‘homage’ to The Shining which will likely anger most hardcore fans rather than appease them. Fewer gimmicks, more story next time, please.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

One Comment on “Paranormal Activity 4”

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.