Saturday at the Movies: Paranormal Activity 4

Paranormal Activity 4 PosterParanormal Activity 4 was released this weekend just in time for the Halloween horror cash grab, and although it was exciting to be part of the ‘fan voted’ advance screening in Toronto, the movie doesn’t really make my cut. In the same spirit as the Oren Peli created Paranormal Activity, this movie relies on a variety of filmed footage to reveal the plight of a family being haunted by evil spirits.

If you’re a fan of the first 3 movies, this continues the story of Katie, Hunter and the bizarre coven. Minimal spoilers – the movie doesn’t rely very heavily on the original storyline.

I didn’t find this to be a scary or compelling horror movie, but Paranormal Activity 4 does have its moments for those seeking a fun “jump out of your seat” date night. Check out the trailer and more after the jump.

This latest instalment picks up 6 years after the disappearance of the previous films’ star Katie and her nephew Hunter. But none of these characters are particularly important to the story, other than drawing some connection to the other films. The main cast is a cheery family, focused on the 15 year old daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her younger brother, Wyatt. Alex’s bickering parents and boyfriend Ben are also key players, but as the story unfolds the real main character turns out to be the family’s weird neighbour, Robbie.

Its not hard to guess what Robbie’s deal is, but I’ll keep the details to a minimum lest I ruin what little the movie has to offer by way of surprises. Robbie winds up coming to stay with the family when his mother falls ill, and strange things start happening.

You’ll have to forgive my lack of enthusiasm – I’ve talked at length about films sold on Peli’s former glory – but the movie isn’t just an escalation of scary moments caught on film. Using an unlikely combination of Apple products, and one awesome Microsoft product, Paranormal Activity 4 tries to stand out from its predecessors.

PA4 RobbieAs spooky things start to happen to the family, Robbie and Wyatt begin to develop an eerie relationship that is cutting the rest of the family out. Concerned, Ben and Alex begin filming the two on camera and see that Robbie has brought something in to their house. Besides a lot of night vision and iPhone footage, there is neat use of the XBOX Kinect system to show paranormal activity. Having never looked at my XBOX array through night vision, I’d never seen the effect before!

Paranormal Activity 4 XBox Kinect

There’s also some great depictions of dark entities, violently taking over and ‘rushing’ the camera. I wish they would just stick the the effective camera tricks, rather that try to show a huge variety of techniques… I guess are are limited to what can reasonably be captured on a camera.

Paranormal Activity 4 Alex Levitate

Unfortunately, capturing things on camera never seems to help anyone in the P.A. franchise. No one believes Alex and despite her attempts to save her brother Wyatt, one day he suddenly and disturbingly tells her that his name is really ‘Hunter’ – not to be glib but without any undue spoilers, I think you can probably imagine how the story ends.

Fans of the franchise will be rewarded by some slight continuations in the Katie/Hunter storyline, but don’t expect too many answers… there’s plenty of room for a Paranormal Activity 5, 6, 7 and beyond. Let’s hope they try to scare us a little harder next time.

4 Replies to “Saturday at the Movies: Paranormal Activity 4”

  1. Good review. While the first two follow-ups at least attempted to give us something new and create a mythology, part four is bereft of ideas and rehashes moments from both its precursors and classics of the horror genre. I didn’t hate it, but it definitely didn’t take me by storm.

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