Well, at least there is the consistency of churning out another repetitive ‘Paranormal Activity’ installment around the Halloween festivities that is still in vogue. Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (‘Paranormal Activity 3’, ‘Catfish’) are back at the creepy control panel for the fourth outing in ‘Paranormal Activity 4′, an empty-minded boofest that trudges along in the fearful familiarity of this tedious goosebump franchise.
If movie audiences were not convinced of the skin-crawling novelty act that the PA movies have created in the past editions then PA4 certainly will cement this notion for sure. The tiresome ritual of annually cranking out another PA twitchy showcase for the spooky season in the month of October is more of a continuing gimmick than it is a concentration on delivering a credible horror flick with solid chills.
Screenwriter Christopher Landon concocts a clumsy supernatural thriller that wants to instil its murky mythology of manufactured scares with a lazy-minded vision of cardboard characterisations, obligatory jumpy music cues, shadowy imagery and shameless references to the prior PA platitudes. Indeed, ‘Paranormal Activity 4′ is just another conveyor belt of worn out ideas disguised as a perfunctory peek-a-boo chiller. The lackluster tag team direction of Joost and Schulman’s numbing narrative does not serve PA4’s purpose beyond the regurgitation of electronic/technology ineptitude and the sheer hint of cringe-worthy chaos.
Among the mixture of intrusive ghosts, demons, unexplained moving objects and video-recording youths is an examination of a weird little boy and his possible connection to the haunting havoc that ensues. How original, huh? After all, there is nothing like the presence of a creepy kid to add to the obviousness of the sinister proceedings at hand.
In affluent Henderson, Nevada Ben (Matt Shively) has the penchant for video recording to the point it drives his 15-year old girlfriend Alex (Kathryn Newton, ‘Bad Teacher’) insane. Ben has planted video cameras all around Alex’s home that she shares with her parents (Alexondra Lee and Stephen Durham) and 6 year-old brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp).
When an extremely odd neighborhood boy named Robbie (Brady Allen) comes to temporarily stay with Alex and her family after his mother is hospitalised, strange occurrences start to unfold in the household. To say that Robbie has erratic quirks is definitely an understatement for the ages. Since his arrival, Alex has noticed the chain of terrorising events which prompted her to request that Ben videotape the entire house at night-time to document the crazy effects that may have some connection to the peculiar Robbie.
Let us not overlook the other sub-plot pertaining to the inclusion of Katie Featherstone’s return as PA2’s harried heroine in Katie, as the petite prey of the poltergeist pests that bombarded her and baby nephew Hunter back in 2006. Their disappearance back then somewhat is tied to the gory goings-on that are taken place with Alex’s hair-raising house high jinx in the present day. Also, the recalled raucousness in PA3 will play a key part in the perplexing conclusion of this movie.
Predictably, ‘Paranormal Activity 4′ goes through the mechanical motions of its darting dalliances with atmospheric tactics featuring shocking adolescents, grainy accounts of kooky-minded activities that go bump-in-the-night, A/V tinkering and falsifying the tension with cheapened jolts of transparent anxieties. The movie never fails in its endless supply of electronic appliances switching off and on without any rhyme or reason, spontaneous levitations, dragged bodies and symbolic dastardly spells that are more laughable than laudable.
In short, ‘Paranormal Activity 4′ leaves little to the imagination, unless you enjoy the duplicated thrills and chills from the other PA sequels as well as borrowed nuggets from other frightfests that channel such notable demented ditties as ‘The Shining’ (Wyatt’s wheeling around the hedonistic house is a reminiscent nod).
Silly-minded and riddled with telegraphed convolution, ‘Paranormal Activity 4’s only legitimate scare tactic is its inevitable fifth sluggish serving waiting in the wings for a future flaccid presentation in a selected October month of your choosing.
Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount Pictures)
1 hr. 28 mins.
Starring: Matt Shively, Kathryn Newton, Brady Allen, Katie Featherstone, Alexondra Lee, Stephen Durham, Aiden Lovekamp
Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
MPAA Rating: R
Critic’s Rating: * ½ stars (out of 4 stars)