Statler: “Hey, Waldorf. Remember that part where everything was still and quiet and not scary?” Waldorf: “What? You mean the whole movie?” (Both chuckle and chortle.)
Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Stars: Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, and Katie Featherston
MPAA Rating: R
The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films seem to have replaced the SAW films as the go-to franchise that will have an installment released in theaters every year. This isn’t a problem as long as the filmmakers continue to deliver the type of thrills their audience has become accustomed to as well as injecting a few original ideas to keep everything from stagnating. Fans seem to have enjoyed and embraced the story that has unfolded thus far with the previous films. Now, we have PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, and it sports the tagline: “All the activity has led to this…” Does it lead to a place fans will want it to go?
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 takes place five years after the events of the second installment in the series. We are introduced to a new family: Mom, Dad, a daughter named Alex, and an adopted son named Wyatt. Alex is the primary cameraperson along with her pseudo-boyfriend, Ben, who spends more time in this house than in his own home. He helps her transform the various computers in the house into her private security cameras after the mysterious new boy in the neighborhood, Robbie, comes to stay at their house. When Robbie’s behavior begins to negatively affect Wyatt, Alex attempts to get to the bottom of who or what is possibly threatening her family.
If your primary fears involve little boys and women in their mid-twenties, then PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is the movie for you. A majority of the scares involve little boys standing in the background or running around, and series-regular Katie being possessed and getting up to no good. If, on the other hand, you are accustomed to the scares incorporating strange noises, mysterious shadows, moving objects, and visual thrills that the other films in this franchise provided, you will be sorely disappointed. Very little of consequence happens in the first seventy to eighty minutes of this movie. Sure, there are a few ghostly images and some mysterious happenings. However, none of them are utilized properly to build suspense, tension, or dread. When the phenomena finally gets serious and dangerous in the final ten minutes, not enough happens to accommodate for the lack of scares throughout the beginning and middle of the movie. A common complaint for found footage films is “nothing happens.” With PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, the complaint is valid.
On the production side, there’s very little of note to mention. The footage itself is poorly staged, with no interesting camera angles and very little cool imagery captured. There’s a mildly engaging night-vision effect involving the Kinect for the XBOX 360 that is connected in the living room, but the spooky events that it results in are sparse. The acting all-around is good, but the actors are not given much to do outside of looking amused, confused, or weary. So, no one gets the opportunity to shine or stretch their acting muscles. There is no blood or gore on display. There are a few CGI shots, yet they are so fast and so few they are barely worth discussing.
Overall, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 can easily be summed up as being just plain boring. Nothing scary happens. No new elements are added to the mythology of the series. There aren’t even any cool moments or sights to make the experience worthwhile. It is a static, stale film lacking the creativity that was on full display in the previous PARANORMAL ACTIVITY film. Considering that Joost and Schulman directed both movies, it is genuinely surprising how far the quality has fallen from one entry to the next. You could say it is the only shocking thing about this film.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is now playing in theaters nationwide. It cannot be recommended at all by this critic.
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