Review: Paranormal Activity 4
PLOT: A young girl, Alex (Kathryn Newton) is convinced that the young boy her family has taken-in has brought some kind of otherworldly presence to their home- with it's target being her adopted younger brother, Wyatt.
REVIEW: Halloween is just around the corner- and you know what that means! A few years ago, it meant another SAW, but nowadays, it means another PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, with this being the latest installment in what must be an extremely profitable franchise for Paramount Pictures.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who directed the well-received third film, are back for another go-round, picking up where the second left off. While my review of the last one wasn't all that positive, looking back at the eighties set prequel that was PA3, it's clear that it was a serious cut above the other films in the series. Joost and Schulman, who directed the semi-doc CATFISH a few years ago (a movie I loved) managed to incorporate some new tricks (including the famous oscillating camera shot)- and a fun retro eighties vibe that resulted in boffo box-office.
Sadly, PA4 doesn't come close to recapturing the fun of the third film with this turgid entry being the worst of the series to date. In fact, I'd say the film borders on being unwatchable, putting it squarely at the bottom of the barrel next to recent found-footage films like THE DEVIL INSIDE. I can see why Paramount loves putting these out, as they probably cost next to nothing to make, market themselves mainly through social media, and typically have huge opening weekends. In their probable haste to put out a fourth film, Paramount seemingly disregarded the fact that the franchise doesn't really have anywhere new to go, with the found footage angle having played itself out over the last three movies.
As a result, PA4 is a simple re-hash from beginning to end. If you've seen the other movies, you've seen this one. The gimmick of having everyone constantly recording themselves is laughable, especially with Joost and Schulman trying to work webcams and iPhone cameras into the plot- which I suppose is meant to be a commentary on the teen obsession with video. Even still, it's pretty hard to swallow when the teen protagonist runs around in abject fear, wielding a laptop to film everything- even though there's really no reason for her to be taping as she's no longer trying to prove anything to anyone, as in the last few movies.
If the other entries were slow-burn, this is an even s-l-o-w-e-r one, with the eighty-eighty minute running time seeming endless. Virtually nothing happens for at least the first half hour, giving off the impression that Joost and Schulman were just making this up as the went along. When the scares finally kick in, they're all rehashed from the other movies- right down to the inevitable Katie Featherston cameo, which is virtual replay of her bit part in the second film.
Probably the only nice thing I can say about PA4 is that young Kathryn Newton is not bad in the lead, and comes off fairly natural- although acting has never really been the problem with the series as the leads always tend to be at least decent- if unremarkable. Some of the video FX, especially the cool night-vision motion mapping effect- are also kinda nifty, but they get rehashed over and over and over- to groan inducing effect.
Even if you're a huge PARANORMAL ACTIVITY fan, I'd wager that by the time PA4 draws to a close you'll admit that the series has really run out of steam. Of course, given the micro-budgets, I'm sure that even if the grosses drop, we'll get at least a few more installments of the series before this goes the way of other horror franchises that played themselves out. Love em' or hate em'- I doubt this series is going anywhere. Groan.