Paranormal Activity 4 Movie Review
Katie and her favorite demonic soul buddy are at it again, this time tormenting a Facetime-loving piece of jailbait and her family because they made the mistake of adopting a boy who is marked by the Devil. Common problem, and it usually doesn't result in the number of deaths that occur here. It's Paranormal Activity 4, folks, and it's nothing you haven't seen before.
Kathryn Newton plays 15-year old Alex, who likes to video chat with her horny guy pal Ben (Matt Shively), who wants to do more than video chat if you get my drift. Naturally, the video obsessed Alex arms her house with cameras as she and Ben begin to notice all kinds of strange things happening, like driverless cars trying to kill them and mutual flirting. All of this begins when Alex's mom agrees to take care of a creepy little boy from across the street for a few days.
Never take care of creepy little boys from across the street.
I've been a fan of the Paranormal Activity movies even though I acknowledge they offer little new to the table each time. Plot aside, I've found the movies generally frightening and suspenseful as they rely on the slow build of anticipation to make otherwise simple scares much greater than they have any right to be.
Paranormal Activity 4 is the first of the franchise that I didn't see in theaters, and is subsequently the least scary of the bunch. It's hard to tell how much of its lack of suspense is due to my viewing perspective - in the theater, the sound is cranked up and my undivided attention is directed toward the big screen, whereas at home I'm watching on a small screen while purposefully shifting my attention to the Internet when I know something bad is about to happen - so I'll simply make note of it here.
The movie is pretty straightforward if you've seen the other three movies, though there's a bit more emphasis on trying to be creepy (like showing a shadow following the little boy around, etc.) rather than scare members of the audience out of their seats. Unfortunately, returning directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and screenwriter Christopher Landon don't take full advantage of the creepy kids at their disposal; there's a lot more they could have done with the tried-and-true method to evoke some additional scares.
The result is somewhat shrug worthy, though in fairness the movie is still well paced, adequately acted and entertaining enough to set it above the typical horror schlock. There are a couple decent scares and the filmmakers do their best to recycle what has worked in previous installments. Ultimately, though, this is the first of the Paranormal Activity films where I have felt the franchise really feels tired, and I don't see it getting better unless they complete mix up the formula - which is also a bad idea.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.