PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 Review
Paramount Pictures presents Paranormal Activity 4.
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Written by Zack Estrin and Christopher B. Landon.
Starring Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen.
I hate sequels. I always have. Aside from The Devil's Rejects and The Lion King 2, I've yet to see a sequel that doesn't lazily play off of its predecessor in terms of originality. When one of my students mentioned in class that Paranormal Activity 4 was to be released this week, I knew not to expect much. By now, after having seen the previous three both sober and shit-faced, I was pretty familiar with the formula. Cynical as I am, I still wanted to see this atrocity. Why? Because I'm a masochist. And I'm kind of a whore for the whole found footage genre. Now, sitting safely in my non-paranormaly house, I can't help but wonder: Jesus Jiminy Christ, what did I just watch? Because whatever it is, now that I've seen it, I can't unsee it.
Our story starts out five years after Katie (Katie Featherston) went bat-shit bananas sandwich and made off with her dead sister's son. Our protagonist, Alex (played by celluloid screen newcomer Kathryn Newton) records her little brother's soccer game. The audience is able to take notice of a strange little boy staring at the game. After returning home, Alex video chats with her snarky boyfriend, Ben (Matt Shively) and fills him and the audience in about the little boy.
Aparently, little Robbie (Brady Allen) has a penchant for standing idly by, talking into space and activating motion lights. After a small party, Alex takes Ben outside to her treehouse for what one can only assume will be some poorly executed hanky panky. For some inexplicable reason, Robbie has made his way up there and surprises the teenagers. Alex leads the boy to his stereotypically creepy house. After an unexplained illness lands Robbie's mother (Katie) in the hospital, the boy stays with Alex's family. In a series of hostile paranormal phenomena, Alex's family comes under attack. Eventually, we uncover (at least partially) Katie and Hunter's fate.
I feel a strange love/hate relationship with this entire franchise. It's a guilty pleasure for me. I love it and I hate that I love it. I must admit, PA 4 is probably my favorite of the series thus far (come on, you know this saga won't end until it breaks Saw's beating-this-dead-horse record). The story certainly wasn't very original and if you've seen any of the other Paranormal Activity films, the plot was pretty predictable. What wasn't predictable was the effectiveness of the horror element in the movie. There were several points in the movie that genuinely freaked me out. The ending in particular was as eerie as it was confusing. I still don't feel like I really understand what I saw, which leads me to believe they are going to keep these films coming ad infinitum.
Aside from a few milquetoast performances which I've come to expect from the PA series, I must give serious props to Newton and Shively. They cultivate such an engaging relationship with one another and they have great chemistry together. I'd almost go as far as to say their relationship is what made the movie so interesting. Plus, it's really nice to see a dude who isn't a skeptical, insufferable douche-nozzle (as PA 1's Micah gracefully personified).
Paranormal Activity 4 certainly doesn't redefine any standard for horror movies. At its core, it's the same old story but presented in a different packaging. And it's that semi-unique packaging that makes it worth seeing. I would definitely recommend throwing back a few Pabst tallboys with some squeamish friends once this comes out on Red Box. I'm curious as to where this story is going to go.
I'm not deluding myself. I don't expect a celluloid masterpiece. I only expect the same soft-core guilty pleasure in which I've indulged ever since I saw The Blair Witch Project as a child. I'll leave you with a final piece of excellent advice from the film: if you let a creepy little boy stay at your house for an extended period of time, he is going to kill your fucking family. Also, don't be a virgin in a paranormal movie. That one's just kind of a given.
Review by Katie Lucas, for Pitofhorror.com