The Paranormal Activity film series continues with this fourth entry from Paramount Pictures and returning directors of the previous outing, Henry Joostand Ariel Schulman. This time, the cell phones and computer cameras are focused on a teenage girl (Kathryn Newton) whose family allow a young boy in their neighborhood named Robbie (Brady Allen) to stay with them while his mom is sick. Soon after, eerie things start happening in the household, some of which focus on the girl’s younger brother Wyatt. As the bumps in the night become more pronounced, the mysteries surrounding Robbie’s family and the house across the street grow to the point where the only thing for the teen girl to do is investigate herself. (synopsis from Fandango)
OK, I’m pretty sure you’ve been living under a rock if you aren’t at least familiar with the plot behind the Paranormal Activity franchise. Everything is recorded by either handheld camera (webcam, cell phone, digital camera, etc) or by a variety of security cameras. A lot of weird things go down, usually revolving around one member of the family (or a member of that extended family who was put up for adoption).
These movies are characterized by the following:
- A plethora of shaky camera footage
- Lot’s of stationary scenes where the audience is constantly scanning the background for something to move and not much does
- A cast of people who typically are either unsympathetic or are ridiculously accepting of the weird.
So what do we have in the fourth installment of the series? We have a family. A mother and father who are having a rocky marriage. A teenage girl who seems to be the focus of the majority of the spirit’s attention. Finally, we have young Wyatt, an adopted boy who was raised as one of the family. The new neighbors across the street suffer a crisis and the mother (Hello Katie) is taken to the hospital. Her son, Robbie, comes to stay with the family and all sorts of insanity start. Or a lot of waiting around for a lot of insanity that really doesn’t happen enough.
Don’t get me wrong. There were jump scares. The problem is that we have seen all of these scares before. You can only see someone drug out of a bed by their feet or someone being pulled down the halls so many times before it becomes commonplace to you.
I found it annoying that the parents basically did not acknowledge their children at all. There are all of these supernatural occurrences and the parents basically ignore them and the children. Part of this issue is with the folks behind the camera. Killing off the parents when they first acknowledge that haunting may be an issue.
The use of night vision and the Wii light system was handled well. It created a less obvious method of detecting the spirit and also created some pretty tense scenes where other things are moving in the night. There were two different scenes where there were things approaching members of the household that they couldn’t see, but we could.
Overall, I’m going to give this movie a 4 out of 10. It does try to be scary, but the lack of effective use of characters, the repetitive plot, etc. allowed to this film to be a failure.