I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a fan of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series. While I can understand why some people didn’t like them but for me personally found it a rather effective horror series that successfully tapped into a fear that many people could relate to: the fear of being alone in your room and hearing scary noises at night. The series explored that fear very well, particularly the fantastic 1st film (one of the only few horror films that managed to truly scare me). While 2nd and 3rd films weren’t as great as that one, but they both did manage to still to offer some solid chills and fun. Now comes the 4th installment in the series PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4. So how does this one measure up with the other films? Well, read on and I’ll tell you (however if you don’t want to know what the film is about, skip the next paragraph).
Set five years after the events of the 1st film, we follow a young teenager named Alex (Kathryn Newton), who lives in a quiet suburban neighbourhood with her parents and younger brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). However things changed when a young boy named Robbie (Brady Allen) and his mysterious Mother move in the house across the street from them. One day Robbie’s Mother gets into accident and has to stay in the hospital for a few days. So Alex’s Mum decides to let Robbie stay with them until his Mother gets better. But as soon as Robbie moves in with Alex’s family, some strange, supernatural events begin to occur around the house.
I won’t go any further with the plot since the fun of these films is not knowing what is going to happen so won’t say anymore. So as a fan of the series, you’re probably wondering what did I think of the film? I will admit that in my opinion, this is the weakest one in the series so far. However that doesn’t mean its a bad film, in fact I actually still had fun with this sequel (when you think about it, this is really the series’ first sequel since part 2 and 3 were prequels). What I found interesting about the film is that its the most entertaining and fast paced one of the series, which makes different to the other films since they were much more slow-burn horror films.
It seemed to me that directors Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman (who directed the 3rd film and as well as the acclaimed documentary CATFISH) like they decided to have a bit of fun when it came to their approach for this sequel, while not over doing it and still keeping it tone with the other films. They both do another solid job yet again with their direction and they do well with some of the film’s scarier moments, while also finding new and interesting ways to utilize technology when to came to the film’s found-footage format. They used laptops cameras, smartphones, video chats, video cameras and even XBOX’s Kinect device, which I thought was used rather well in a couple of the film’s set pieces. .The performances from the cast are really solid: Kathryn Newton makes for quite a likeable lead as “Alex” and I also liked her chemistry with Matt Shively, who plays her boyfriend “Ben”. He was my favourite performance in the film and he brings in a lot of the film’s humour and both young actors Aiden Lovekamp and Brady Allen are both rock solid as “Wyatt” & “Robbie”, particularly Allen who can be quite creepy at times. Also in case you were wondering, Katie Featherston (who played “Katie” in the 1st film and as well as had cameos in parts 2 & 3), makes a welcome return to series in a larger role. Plus there are a couple of scary moments and jump scares that I thought were handled well (especially in the last half).
In terms of negatives even though I did fun with the film, There are some certain elements in it that I found weaker when compared to the other films. First of all: it’s not really as scary as it should have been. While the previous films in the series managed to creep me out in one way shape or form, this one didn’t do that unfortunately. Although to be fair, it seems to happen to a lot of long-running horror series at some point. If you look at other films series like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN or SAW, each one started off really scary but with each passing sequel they became less and less so until they came to a point where they just weren’t scary anymore. I think the reason for that is we already know what to expect with each sequel now and it doesn’t feel as fresh as it once was.
Plus it wouldn’t have that same air of the mystery which the 1st film in each one of those series had when we experienced them for the first time. Which was also bound to happen to the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films sooner or later sadly, since this is a series that has relied on suspense and scares. Also I kind of wish that they did more with the plot, which I felt was a bit more of the same and it didn’t really offer many more new surprises (hopefully in the next films, they’ll do something a bit more different and unique with their stories). Plus I would have liked it if they explored some more of the film’s mythology, rather than just hint at it (which I won’t spoiler but if you seen the other films, you’ll know what I’m talking about).
Overall while PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is the weakest and most flawed one of the series, I still enjoyed it for what it was nonetheless. However if you didn’t like the other films, chances are you’ll most likely won’t care or like this one as well and its not ging to change your mind about the films. But if you are die-hard or casual fan of the series, than I say its worth checking out. Just don’t go expecting much other than a fun time.
Review written by Bede Jermyn