Perhaps the only scary aspect of Paranormal Activity 4 is how shamelessly it apes its predecessors. From the narrative, to the pacing and the tired manner in which it unfolds its yawn-inducing attempts at frights, this supernatural horror film is an absolute snore fest.
This is disappointing because the Paranormal Activity franchise at one point stood out in terms of creativity, but it now seems the mockumentary filmmakers have milked this cash cow to death.
As usual, the scares come through the young siblings who are under the influence of a demonic entity. Here, the paranormal boy is Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), who makes an instant friend in the shape of the new neighbour’s son Robbie (Brady Allen). Through this friendship with Robbie, Wyatt learns that the two are biological brothers who got separated when younger.
Robbie starts living with Wyatt upon his mother’s request, who is recovering from an unknown illness at the hospital. At this point Wyatt’s older sister Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) become very suspicious of Robbie’s creepy behaviour, especially after he introduces Wyatt to his invisible friend, who they slowly begin to see as an evil presence in the house. From here on the plot develops very predictably, making the film’s narrative feel like a carbon copy of its predecessors.
Also similar to previous instalments, Paranormal Activity 4 presents its video in the ‘found footage’ style, which was popularised by the cult horror classic, The Blair Witch Project (1999). Although the realism added by this style is a natural fit with horror films, my question is that if they keep finding these videos, where people end in gruesome deaths thanks to supernatural events, why isn’t someone doing something about it?
In Paranormal Activity 4, the footage is mostly presented through laptop webcams and camera phones, including a number of scenes being shot through an Xbox Kinect 3D night vision camera which sits in the sitting room of the house. Unfortunately, the gimmicky Kinect camera shots add creatively little to these scenes and the device simply functions as a distracting piece of product placement.
I have to say that I waited patiently for the frights in this film to surprise me, but sadly they never did, with the film even ending almost exactly the way Paranormal Activity 3 did. Yes, the franchise had one great trick in the ‘found footage’ style, but it is high time this pony went home.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 25th, 2012.