Paranormal Activity 4 gets zero for originality and creativity. This is deja vu. You have seen it all before in a different house, three times. But the new instalment in the franchise is scary, creepy and weird.
Meanwhile, give it three stars for the new family in Nevada, especially the spunky 15-year-old teen girl (played by Kathryn Newton) at the heart of the story. She has more brains than both her clueless parents put together. When weird things start to happen — as they always do in a Paranormal Activity movie — her spidey senses are tingling but they are in dumb-cluck denial.
Adults are idiots in the PA universe.
The disappointment is how lame the demon-seed children are. I blame the filmmakers, not the kids, for that. Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman should have re-watched and recycled a bit of The Exorcist, The Omen or even the scenes with the Grady Girls in The Shining. Kids like this have to be even more frightening than demon-possessed adults. These kids looked most disinterested in what they were supposed to be portraying. That is bad directing.
I also think you can mix in a poor one-and-a-half star rating for the execution of the same old story with mostly new people (although Katie Featherston returns for the fourth time, all killer bad-ass and ready to connect the dots with the other flicks). On a technical level, the tricky video game imaging was annoying after just one scene.
On a related level, in the logic department, can’t these people shoot their surveillance videos in high definition? Do they really have to be so grainy?
And why, after all the effort the teen queen’s boyfriend (Matt Shively) puts into setting up their surveillance videos after the crazy-ass crap starts to happen, do they then ignore the “found footage” videos. They have all the friggin’ evidence they need to show THERE ARE EVIL SPIRITS IN THE HOUSE!
But nobody ever looks at it except us, in the audience, and people start shouting advice at the screen, although the characters cannot hear us.
Nevertheless, there is good advice to be heard, like telling Newton NOT to go in the garage. But, damn it, in she goes.
Shake it all down and I figure that PA4 is worth about two out of five, especially because so much footage in all the PA movies is so tedious to endure while we wait for activity, paranormal or otherwise. The original Paranormal Activity at least had originality going for it when it came out in 2009 as an antidote to high-tech but low-brow Hollywood slasher horror.
The next two sequels danced around in time as prequels. The new one jumps from 2006 to 2011 for most of its storytelling. I do expect that PA4 will be a hit regardless of its repetitive nature. Audiences are still curious about these low-budget, ghost-horror suckers.
Unfortunately, very little is added to the PA mythology in PA4. Even the final “shocker” scene does not explain anything useful. Plus Joost and Schulman spring it on us way too quickly ... and it disappears from view in seconds. No real fun in that, even if some people did shriek in horror when they saw it at my screening.
This film is rated 14A