Film Review : Paranormal Activity 4
● By Justin Buettner
The newest chapter in this series comes back to the present after the previous two sequels served as prequels. The film follows Alex, a teenage girl who becomes aware that Robbie, the little boy across the street, is not normal. Alex’s adopted little brother Wyatt begins playing with Robbie more and more which starts changing her brother at the same time paranormal events happen. Will Alex’s attempts to capture the events on webcams help convince her parents that something is not right?
Henery Joost and Ariel Schulman direct their second Paranormal Activity film after taking over the franchise with part three. I appreciate their efforts to try to put a new spin on what ultimately is a limited gimmick styled film. Because the franchise is married so closely to the found/real footage style of storytelling to keep things fresh they find new ways of filming the found footage. The last chapter included the oscillating camera which was put to good use. This chapter features web cams almost exclusively (with a little bit of phone camera footage for good measure). The really cool element that was added is the use of the Xbox Connect which emits infrared beams that catch the demon ghosts moving in certain sequences. I don’t question the directors ingenuity to try and add new wrinkles in the way to capture this footage, but despite the new technology the trouble this franchise is facing lies in the story.
The story remains essentially unchanged. Every Paranormal Activity film follows a family that witnesses strange events having one person aware, the others unaware (or don’t believe) and culminates in the family dying while a child or witch escapes to keep the series alive. While I appreciate a horror series that does not rely on gore to cause an audience terror, I actually like the slow build of tension and slight of hand antics these films use, it is becoming repetitive. I’d much rather watch another sequel of Paranormal Activity over any of the slasher flicks that are so popular but there is little doubt that the series needs to do something different story wise in the next chapter.
The casting in this movie was quite good. All the child actors are convincing as normal kids, or in Robbie’s case the creepy kid. The parents are rarely featured, but Alex and her likable boyfriend Matt Shively come across real which is very important to the effectiveness to these movies. Katie Featherston returns at the Katie character that this franchise revolves around and she is every bit as effective as she has been in the previous installments.
Ultimately you’re getting more of the same when you go to a Paranormal Activity movie. That has been enough to date but I have a feeling going forward (the fifth movie has already been scheduled for next October) the series will need to take bigger risks to be different. My suggestion would be to follow an undercover policewoman that joins the witch cult and captures the inner workings of the creepy group. You could still effectively use the first person footage this series is famous for, but it would be enough of a departure with the story that it would inject much needed new life into this series. Those that enjoy the “Where’s Waldo” style of horror the Paranormal Activity series delivers will find some form of enjoyment in the newest chapter even if it has a been there done that kind of vibe to it.
Films like Paranormal Activity 4 : Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity 1-3, and Cloverfield
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.