October 30, 2012

Review: Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Be warned: I'm going to spoil this movie and a lot of its happenings in this review. Why am I going to do that? Well, because  so many things that happened in this clunker confounded to no end, and I kinda have to.

It's a rant, kids.

We're fans of the Paranormal Activity flicks around here; they may not be perfect, but they are effective as hell and somehow manage to deliver a creepy atmosphere and plenty of scares, despite their shortcomings... at least they did right up until part 4.

It's safe to say that at this point the producers behind this series are just interested in getting a new PA flick out in theaters every Halloween for a quick cash grab. It's almost as if they're making up the story as they go along, and doing the best they can to make it all make sense, but it just isn't quite gelling.

And for the record, this is a Found Footage/POV/Cinema Verite movie. Some folks out there in cyber-moron land seem to think this movie beyond those confines, but it's not. Same old, same old.

The movie opens with a flashback recap of the end events of PA2, in which Katie murders her sister and makes off with her nephew. Five years later in Nevada, we're introduced to the new family that is to be put through the paranormal ringer; Mom, Dad, a young son and a too-hot-for-her-age jail-bait daughter. So that's the setup.

The story really starts when  the creepy kid from next door keeps showing up wherever this family is; a soccer game, at their house, in their yard, in their tree fort, in their shower... and no one really seems to be all that concerned with a six year old kid just "showing up" all over the place, and alone at that.

By the way, the kids' "Mom" is Katie, so you get where this is all going.

Creepy kid talking to the Kinect.
One day, this kid shows up and says that his Mom, whom the family has never met nor even seen, is in the hospital and he has nowhere to go. Without batting an eyelash, the Mom of our moron family decides he should stay with them until she gets out of the hospital, because that seems logical. Don't call the cops and say that some kid showed up on your doorstep, don't even call the hospital to see what the deal is with his mom, just let him stay with you, because it "seems like the right thing to do." This absolute lack of any sort of logic pretty much illustrates just how inept this entire movie is.

From here on out, it's PA business as PA usual, minus any true scares; a knife moves, a chair moves, the X-Box Kinect is haunted, a ball rolls down some stairs, a chandelier falls, the toys are haunted... it's all riveting stuff.

There's lots of figures standing still in this movie...
The only one who suspects that anything odd is going on is the daughter, and her older boyfriend pretends to believe her because he wants to tap that 15-year-old ass; honestly, the scene with them at the beginning had a truly rapey vibe to it. "What say we go for a walk through your dark backyard, and maybe examine that lonely tree house of yours, eh?" He was totally making his move, like a true creeper.

So after about 60 minutes of not-scary stuff, we get to the climax of the movie, which finds our young heroine running around with her Macbook, filming the most terrifying and chaotic moments of her young life, with a very professional touch. Then, 200 witches show up and we're left wondering WTF just happened.

There's lots of Katie standing still in this movie...
There are a few make-you-jump moments here and there, but nothing close to what the previous PA movies have given us. Even if there were, the story is so bland and disjointed, that I can't imagine how any truly creepy scenes would have played in this one. I wanted there to be a fast-forward button on the Theater screen. I wanted some NoDoz. I wanted it to be over.

About the only good thing in this movie was the performance of 15-year-old Kathryn Newton. She's a pretty good little actress, and shes a looker to boot, so it won't be long before we see more from her. Hopefully she'll get to be involved in some better flicks though.

Good job, kid. Put this one behind you and keep on going.
The camera scheme for this one is brought to us via multiple Laptop Webcams.... which are turned on and recording all day and night, for no apparent fucking reason. Oh wait, the teenage daughter thinks that they are being haunted, again, for no apparent fucking reason. So I guess that that's the reason.

It's also neat that the daughter carries her laptop around throughout the whole movie, everywhere she goes, near or far, all so that the movie can exist. Even at the end, when she finds people dead and is running for help, she carries her laptop in front of her to capture it all on film. She climbs through a window, terrified for her life and with a demon on her heels, and still, she carries her laptop.  Once again; a terrified 15-year-old girl, running for her life, has the presence of mind to film everything in front of her with a laptop...  it's so implausible that it borders on being ludicrous. Screw that, it is ludicrous.

Behind her, a figure stands still...
Was this script written in a day? The films' viral marketing on Youtube and its plot elements were better than those in the actual movie. Care to explain how Katie lost her nephew, and how he got adopted by some family in Nevada? And why does Toby (the demon) do useless shit like throw a ball down some stairs or make something move? There's no sense in it. Why did he trap the daughter in the garage and turn the car on to try and kill her, rather than just throw her against something like he does with everyone else?

Then there's the ending, which comes along and adds more questions to the already lingering questions that went unresolved from the previous movie. And honestly, how does a pretty white girl screaming her head off in a well-off, predominately white neighborhood, draw absolutely no attention from neighbors or the Cops? Come on, if Cops do anything with exacting precision, it's protecting upper class white folks in their time of need.

This white girl is unprotected!
PA4 exists only to be in theaters to make some quick Halloween cash, and it's written as such. When you put a movie on a fast track like that, and give it less than a year for its conception, writing, pre-production, shooting, and post-production, this is what happens.

PA5 has already been announced for next October, so again we have a rushed sequel that is going to get a fraction of care that a movie in development should get, and the results won't be much different than they were here.

This movie exists for no other reason than for it to exist; it explains nothing from the previous PA flicks like we thought it would, and leaves us with another ending that suggests we should seek answers in the already announced PA5. Like the Saw series, Paranormal Activity looks as if it's going to churn out a new sequel each year in time for Halloween, which absolutely tells you that the quality is going to be shit.

Go and spend your money on Sinister, which was actually a good and creepy flick, and pretend that the Paranormal Activity series ended with part 3. Trust us, it basically did.


Paranormal Activity 4 is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD.


A few years down the road, Kathryn Newton is going to be a Horror Hottie, and we will not feel bad about calling her hot. For now though, we will simply say what a lovely, talented young girl she is... just like we did with Emma Watson. See, we do have morals!


  1. yup. this one sucked. sorry.
    the only bright spot for me was seeing this one in the theatre (the other three i saw on dvd)
    and the experience was different , but it was typical scare moments and then...the last 15 minutes of terror.
    sinister was great and creepy-original - look fwd to your review.

  2. yup. this one sucked. sorry.
    the only bright spot for me was seeing this one in the theatre (the other three i saw on dvd)
    and the experience was different , but it was typical scare moments and then...the last 15 minutes of terror.
    sinister was great and creepy-original - look fwd to your review.