Review: Paranormal Activity 4

Much like the Friday the 13th franchise, or the Saw series for a more recent example, the Paranormal Activity films have more or less settled into a comfortable groove by its fourth entry in as many years. While sequel rules dictate that the stakes be raised with each subsequent entry, the films – originally a $15,000 “found footage” movie directed by Oren Peli that took the box office by storm – have rarely reached beyond their fairly simple origins: a family find themselves haunted by a demonic spirit with a fondness for loud bangs in the night, levitation, throwing people around like rag-dolls, and pulling the doona covers off sleeping victims. The added extra of a cult-like institution in the series best Paranormal Activity 3 is about as radical as it has gotten so far, and Paranormal Activity 4 adds little that hasn’t been seen before. Alas, many viewers probably won’t have a problem with that.

Set five years after the death of Micah and the disappearance of Katie (Katie Featherstone, returning once again) and baby Hunter, Paranormal Activity 4 follows another regular family whose teenage daughter (Kathryn Newton, Bad Teacher) begins to suspect the boy from across the street (Brady Allen) has brought an evil presence into her home. Typical events follow with nobody believing her and her tech savvy boyfriend’s (Matt Shively, True Jackson VP) efforts to convince them.

Alex (Kathryn Newton) sees maybe-dead-maybe-not people in Paranormal Activity 4

While this franchise is never going into space or to New York any time soon (like Jason Voorhees), there are still some neat places it could go, but it quickly becomes apparent it won’t be going anywhere different this time around. Personally, I await the filmmakers (this time, much like on the third instalment, under the eye of Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman) to go meta on its audience of ghost-spotting viewers and have its characters start talking about the Paranormal Activity franchise of films. Logic dictates that the police are finding all these recordings and somebody is assembling them into 90-minute packages so why have these characters never heard of the events from five years prior? And why does Katie Featherstone’s character never stop to wonder why every time she decides to go haunting her local neighbours they’re always running those damned video cameras?

Para-todler activity with Brady Allen’s creepy child, Bobbie, in Paranormal Activity 4

Paranormal Activity 4 is arguably the weakest entry in the series, but if one still gets their kicks out of these films then that probably won’t mean all that much. It’s certainly too long, with long patches of fairly nondescript boo scares littering the landscape, but a few decent shocks and a particularly impressive final stretch (which, going by the audience arrivals some 40 minutes into the movie suggests, is where everyone knows the best stuff resides) will make this a decent, if not entirely remarkable in any way shape or form, flick for a scary slumber party evening. I’d be remiss, of course, to not mention the cat. Best Supporting Performance by the Feline, please.

Paranormal Activity 4 is released nationally on October 18th

Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

Cast: Kathryn Newton, Katie Featherstone, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovekamp, Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee

About Glenn Dunks

Glenn Dunks loves films, that we know for sure. As well as being a film critic for Trespass Magazine where his wildly unpredictable tastes you’ve grown accustomed to, Glenn is the creator and writer of film blog Stale Popcorn (http://stalepopcornau.blogspot.com) , film editor at Onya Magazine, has written for The Big Issue and Encore and has been heard on JOY 94.3. Glenn is based in Melbourne, is an active Twitterer (@stalepopcornau) and is and is particular fond of Australian, horror and queer cinema.