Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Starring: Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Aiden Lovekamp, Brady Allen, Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee, Georgica Pettus, Katie Featherston, Alisha Boe, Brendon Eggertsen
1/2 (out of 4)
Warning: slight spoilers ahead.
I find her interesting because she sleeps above her covers. 4 feet above her covers…
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are back with their fourth entry in the popular franchise about supernatural happenings inside everyday suburbia, delivered in the style of “found footage.” The previous Paranormal Activity films tried to mix it up a bit by showing us everything from VHS tapes to security-cams to MINI-DV. Paranormal Activity 4 takes place in the year 2011, and almost everything in it is filmed using laptop cameras, something that is funnier the more I think about it, because if you are running from demons and witches, are you really intent on carrying your fucking laptop around? If you’re that kind of person, then Paranormal Activity 4 is the film for you.
I will allow for this: it’s plausible that at the very end, 14 year old Alex (Kathryn Newton) is running around filming everything using her smartphone (it’s never really made clear). Additionally, I suppose you just have to accept the idea that in movies like this, people are compelled to film everything, no matter how dramatic, personal, or threatening to their well-being. But you still have to wonder about a household where everybody has their laptop open and operating 24 hours a day. Don’t people put their computers to sleep when they are done using them and close them up? Anyway, I digress. Paranormal Activity 4 takes place after the events of the second film, where a demon-possessed Katie (Katie Featherston) kidnaps Hunter, her sister’s baby, and disappears. The action shifts to Nevada and follows the life of a nuclear family – Alex, her little brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), her mom (Alexondra Lee) and dad (Stephen Dunham). They are your typical suburban, upper middle class family with a lovely kitchen, featuring self-absorbed parents who don’t really talk to one another, much less anybody else. (Probably the most interesting thing to take away from PA4 is this constant reminder that parents no longer connect with their children, happy to leave them to their treehouses and Xboxes). One day, the new neighbor lady is mysteriously hauled away in an ambulance, leaving our family (I don’t even know their last name) to take care of little Robbie (Brady Allen), because in Paranormal Activity 4, social services does not get involved; just drop the kid off with the neighbors.
Xbox “Phase 2” initiated
Robbie is a weird kid, and Wyatt becomes more distant from everyone the longer Robbie stays in the house. Supernatural events occur, as they always do in these films, leading Alex and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) to set up all laptops in the house to continually record events through webcams. Chandeliers fall from the ceiling, kitchen knives fly around, and the boys seem to have acquired an imaginary friend, which you can see through the use of a XBox Kinect and night-vision camera. This eventually leads to a demon attack on Alex which almost kills her via carbon monoxide poisoning. And what is the biggest reaction from her dad? Only to brush things off and exclaim how awesome kids are these days with technology (“I can’t even work my cell phone!”) At no point does anybody consider playing back the recorded footage, which shows indisputable proof of demonic entities invading the household. There’s some nonsense about Alex not being able to work the software without Ben around, which is just stupid, considering that any kid can work web cam software these days, and if getting footage is so important, wouldn’t you want to make sure you can watch it?
Paranormal Activity 4 offers more of the same as the films before it – people dragged around and dropped from heights by unseen entities; secret covens next door; adults too preoccupied with themselves to notice anything around them; victims that should probably put down the camera and run like hell but don’t. Katie Featherston makes her expected appearance – picking up a paycheck – and the revelation of who baby Hunter is just leads to more confusion because – why steal a child and then give it up for adoption? At the end of Paranormal Activity 4, no mysteries are solved and the overarching plot of the franchise doesn’t really get developed much at all. The movie is wholly unnecessary, is what I’m saying. As far as the found footage angle goes, this is old hat by now, and I have noticed that PA4 is almost edited like a normal film. A kill is shown briefly, and then the camera cuts to somewhere else, which doesn’t really make sense considering that we are supposed to be immersed in the “realism” associated with found footage. But this doesn’t play like found footage at all; it plays like a “regular” movie that just happens to be shot with a laptop camera. Whatever thrill we got from watching somebody’s personal home movies has completely dissipated.
But with that said, I don’t think Paranormal Activity 4 is much worse than the last one, which I can barely remember, to tell you the truth. I actually think Kathryn Newton and Matt Shively are quite good in it, which is important, since they are forced to carry the film (even little Wyatt, who is central to the story, is treated more like an object than an actual character). Lots of people feel that this is the worst one; it could be, but it’s not something I can really get worked up over. I merely find it par for the course – maybe people are finally figuring out that the P.A. series is a one trick pony.
– Bill Gordon
Don’t freak. It’s just an Indigo Girls concert.
There’s an unrated edition of Paranormal Activity 4, but it has nothing to do with anything extra-violent or scary. Mostly just a beginning sequence set during Halloween that introduces us to the protagonists.
Buy Paranormal Activity 4: Unrated Edition/Rated Version (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)
Buy Paranormal Activity 4: Unrated Edition on DVD