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Awesome: 5.88%
Worth A Look: 0%
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Pretty Bad47.06%
Total Crap47.06%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Paranormal Activity 4
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by Rob Gonsalves

"The franchise has jumped the demon."
2 stars

The more plot-heavy these "Paranormal Activity" films get, the less scary they are.

Iím a big fan of randomness in horror movies, because horror in real life chills us by its randomness. Itís frightening to think that you could be standing in line at the store and get shot to death for no better reason than that you happened to be there. And itís frightening to think that a demon might decide to mess with your life for no better reason than that you happen to be there. Itís not all that frightening to think that the demon might pick you out because youíre part of a family thatís had trouble producing a male child, and that youíre destined to be possessed and kill a lot of people and kidnap your sisterís baby son, and blah blah blah on into infinity. But thatís what the Paranormal Activity franchise has become, and the fourth and latest installment follows yet another family terrorized not because a demon just wants to mess with them, but because the same damn demon has moved in across the street.

Unlike the previous entry, which covered the early days of the demonic mischief in 1988, PA4 unfolds in the present day (well, 2011), bringing in such devices as laptop cameras and the Xbox Kinect to help sell the scares, which this time are in sadly short supply. The heroine is teenager Alex (Kathryn Nelson), who lives with her squabbling parents and her adopted younger brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). Wyatt becomes friends with a strange kid from the neighborhood, Robbie (Brady Allen), whose mother, weíre told, has gone to the hospital for a few days. Alexís parents take Robbie in ó he seems to have no other family, and nobody asks why Child Protective Services donít step in ó and things start getting weird. Robbie toddles around in the dead of night, talking to people who arenít there. Doors open and close. Alex and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) catch a lot of the weirdness on camera, but of course her parents donít take her seriously.

Thereís one neat effect, courtesy of the Xbox Kinect. I didnít know that the way this videogame system works is by throwing off thousands of tracking dots visible only to an infrared camera in a dark room. The dots then ďreadĒ your movements, enabling you to play the games; apparently they also show up on otherwise invisible demons. Thatís good for a spooky image or two. But it gets overworked, as do a lot of other tropes; a cat is in the house solely to pop up and startle the audience. Paranormal Activity 4 also feels like the most conventional film in the series. In the other movies, we were forced to stare at length at darkened rooms, waiting nervously for something creepy to happen. Thereís really only one scene like that here; the movie feels far too ďcutty,Ē moving from one camera to another, and most of the cameras capture the footage in bright clear color. The eerie inertia and starkness of the past filmsí imagery are mostly gone here, and that style is what had set this series apart for me.

I suppose itís no big surprise that Katie Featherston, the possessed young woman from the first two films, returns here. Sheís scariest when acting like a normal smiling mom, but when sheís stalking around quietly and doing evil things we see why it was wise to use Featherston so sparingly as a boogeyman in the other films ó she just seems like too amiable a presence to sell diabolical influence. (Itís a little like imagining Jenna Fischer, whom Featherston resembles, as the Bride in Kill Bill.) Katieís presence muddies the narrative waters: weíre not sure if the child living with her is Hunter, the baby nephew sheíd kidnapped, or if Wyatt is actually Hunter.

Weíre supposed to come back for "Paranormal Activity 5" to find out more, probably. I think Iíll stop at four.

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originally posted: 10/22/12 10:40:52
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User Comments

9/25/17 morris campbell IT SUCKS 1 stars
2/21/17 morris campbell how the mighty have fallen 2 stars
1/04/14 Marty Same old tricks. Fresh with the first movie but it's become predictable. Not enough terror. 2 stars
11/08/12 patti howard awesome and scary 5 stars
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  19-Oct-2012 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jan-2013


  DVD: 29-Jan-2013

Directed by
  Henry Joost
  Ariel Schulman

Written by
  Zack Estrin

  Dianna Agron
  Katie Featherston
  Brady Allen

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