In my review of Paranormal Activity 3, I pointed out that I originally didn’t want to see it. I was reluctant to see it, because I thought the first Paranormal Activity was boring. In that same review, I also said that I was happy with the fact that I gave the third installment a chance simply because I actually loved what I saw. So naturally I couldn’t wait for Paranormal Activity 4 to come out. Could they feed off of the third film? I went into it hoping they would.
The fourth film follows directly behind the second film of the series, since Paranormal Activity 3 is actually a prequel. Up until now, no one knows the whereabouts of Katie and Hunter. They’ve been missing since the events of the sequel and may have just popped back up. They are unknown to the community that they now live in and they may have something more than having a place to live in mind when they wind up in this Henderson, Nevada suburban neighborhood.
Alex (Kathryn Newton) is a fifteen year old high school kid who lives across the street from the new home belonging to Katie (Katie Featherston). Out of her entire family of four, she becomes the first one to grow suspicious of the new neighbors. She doesn’t know much about the woman, but the little boy catches her attention the most anyway. He appears kind of weird and the events that follow him seem even weirder. That’s when she gets Ben (Matt Shively), her boyfriend to help her by filming what’s going on around her home. She can’t find a definitive answer to what’s taking place, but she knows it doesn’t seem right.
While watching Paranormal Activity 4, one of the things that I kept asking myself was mainly about the use of the cameras. Like the other films in the franchise, this is obviously a found footage film, but this one felt a little different. They install the cameras to monitor the strange happenings that are taking place, but they stop watching the recordings after the first couple of events that they record. What was the point of recording it if you’re just going to ignore it?
I would imagine that a normal person would be keeping a constant eye on what they get on film, since it bothered them so much in the first place. It doesn’t make sense to go away from it so fast. They even bring the cameras around with them sometimes, but it looks as if they never check them. Again, what is the point of recording any of it if you’re not going to pay attention to any of it?
They paid attention in Paranormal Activity 3. The guy who was filming it would get up and go over the tapes of what happened the night before. He even got his friend involved. I’d imagine that’s what a reasonable person who’s suspicious and intrigued would do. You wouldn’t notice it, film it and then essentially forget about it when you have an opportunity to get some groundbreaking footage.
Another thing that you may notice in Paranormal Activity 4 is the fact that no one appears to listen. Whenever someone would attempt to explain what they just saw or experienced to another person, it was basically just tossed to the side without even listening to a small part of what’s being said. Should I really expect that this would happen over and over again with no one taking the time to hear the person out? Even if they didn’t believe you or take you seriously, I’m sure at least one of your loved ones would actually stop and listen to what you had to say sooner or later.
There are several chances for someone to go back and look at the footage of what they had. They could even use that footage to show other people. Did either one of those things happen outside of a couple of times early on? No. At one point, someone almost gets killed and then that person just explains it to someone without going to the amazingly scary footage that they had at their disposal. Anybody seeing what’s just been filmed would have no choice, but to listen and take you seriously if you showed to them.
Aside from the nonsensical decision-making of these characters, another issue that I have with Paranormal Activity 4 are the characters themselves. These guys are very plain and bland. One of the things that I enjoyed about the previous film was that the characters were fun in one way or another. They had the kind of lively personalities that these guys just didn’t really have.
After blabbering about all of that stuff, I have to talk about the horror elements that are included. This of course, is the most important part of Paranormal Activity 4 and really any other horror film. From my perspective, this is a scary movie that’s not all that scary. As I’ve said before in a few of my reviews, as much as I love horror films, they’re never scary to me. A lot of people in the theater did sound like they were into much of what the creators of the film were using, so you might side more with them than me.
My biggest problem with the attempts to scare the audience in this movie is the fact that they used quite a few of the same things that we saw in Paranormal activity 3. Not only did they use a few of these things, they used them a good bit more than they did in the previous film. Using it once makes it more memorable and more impactful in many instances. When you use some things over and over again, it takes a bit of its effectiveness away from it. Using this stuff from the previous movie also makes it appear like you lack creativity, and that’s not good when you have at least two minds working behind the camera.
Overall, Paranormal Activity 4 lacked the character, personality and entertainment value that I wanted to see. I have been waiting for this movie since I first saw the prequel in October of 2011 and I have to say that I’m disappointed with the finished product. I went into the prequel thinking it was going to be terrible and I went into this one hoping that it would be great, but I was wrong on both counts. Now that I think about it, maybe co-directors Joost and Schulman aren’t able to replicate the high quality entertainment that they created in late 2011. Maybe they just caught lightning in a bottle that one time. We might get that answer if they ever make a Paranormal Activity 5.
On one final note, it’s best for viewers of Paranormal Activity 4 to sit through the credits.
Film Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2012
Distributor: Paramount Pictures