Directed by: Henry Joost + Ariel Schulman
Summary: It has been five years since the disappearance of Katie and Hunter, and a suburban family witnesses strange events in their neighborhood when a woman and a mysterious child move in. (from IMDb)
Neoli’s Review: Rotten Tomatoes gives a disappointing score of 4.3 out of 10 to Paranormal Activity 4, but that doesn’t mean you should keep away from it. It’s actually good, at least for me. Remember that the film is part of an ongoing series (Part 5 will reportedly come out in October 2013), so the best we can do is just go along for the ride and enjoy the new thrills and scares they have for us.
Paranormal Activity 4 introduces us to Alex and her rich family—her dad, mom, little brother Wyatt, Ben, the occasional houseguest/budding boyfriend/and techie responsible for setting up the various webcams all over the house, and the weird kid from across the street, Robbie.
The suburban setting is important; not only does it explain away the ubiquity of laptops and Xbox Kinect, but it also emphasizes the strained relationship of the parents—they live in such a big, beautifully furnished house yet it’s all just a façade. Even more, since they live in the wealthy suburbs, the film’s (and the entire franchise’s) root source of horror—witchcraft—becomes even more irreconcilable. As if to say, YES, in this day and age, and in such reassuring ritzy surroundings, such a thing still exists.
The nice thing is that the filmmakers have managed to make the found footage style in Paranormal Activity 4 as refreshing as ever. Adding to our endless wait for something to happen in front of the camera is the Xbox Kinect, which fills the room (and our view) with countless pixels from which to detect the slightest aberration—a moving entity, a figure materializing out of thin air. The very image of Alex and the two boys engulfed in green dots is creepy already.
As always, there’s the ongoing problem of why people would videotape just about anything, as if for the convenience of the film, and here, the Dad immediately makes a statement/disclaimer—teenagers are always documenting everything. Of course, it helps that the actors are convincing. Kathryn Newton, as Alex, the virginal teenage daughter bent on uncovering what exactly makes Robbie so weird, is lovely and effective. So are Ben, and the parents, and more importantly the kids.
Little kids acting weird, specifically, weird little kid influencing his little kid friend, has always been classic fodder for horror films because kids are supposed to be faultless and harmless. In Part 4, the theme is doubly scary because the parents are oblivious and don’t seem to care, while Alex and Ben are practically helpless in convincing them.
In the end, once the transformation is complete, Wyatt will not budge, believes he is someone else’s kid, and leads Alex to her eventual downfall.
It’s a twist ending that comes out of nowhere, which you may or may not like. But since I’ve been rooting for the sweet-faced Alex and all her sisterly efforts since Day 1, the effect is all the more jarring.
Eric’s Review: I have to disagree with Neoli here. For me, Paranormal Activity 4 is, by far, the worst of the series. Apart from the X-Box scenes there is absolutely nothing new or inventive on display. It was actually the first time that I genuinely felt bored watching a Paranormal Activity Movie. This is the kind of lazy script that gives found-footage movie haters reason to despise the genre.
And the worst thing for me is that there are close to none scary scenes or even jump scares. Big disappointment coming from the directors who brought us Paranormal Activity 3 which, as far as I am concerned, was the best of the 4 movies so far.
Neoli’s Rating: 7.5/10
Eric’s Rating: 4.5/10