Paranormal Activity 4 REVIEW

Release Date: 17 October 2012
15 | 87 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Directors: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Cast: Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Katie Featherston

If Paranormal Activity 3 successfully transformed the desk fan into the scariest home appliance since Satan’s nose hair trimmer, PA4 attempts a similar trick with the Xbox’s motion controller, Kinect. The lightshow seen when capturing Kinect’s sensors on a nightvision camera is visually arresting, but the underwhelming scares that result sum up the film’s biggest problem – the more technology thrown at them, the less pant-wetting the Paranormal Activity films are.

Gone are the halcyon days of a single camera sending audiences into hysterics by showing nothing more than a door moving three inches in the space of five minutes. In Paranormal Activity 4, webcams cover every inch of the house, main character Alex calls her boyfriend on Skype throughout (or presumably FaceTime, given the prevalence of MacBooks around the place) and smartphones are always within reach. It’s only one step away from a Big Brother-style live stream on YouTube.

The effect of all this technology in front and behind the camera is that it acts like a safety blanket. Computer effects stray just too far over the line from “unsettlingly implausible” to “obviously artificial”, while the constant recording creates an annoying logic gap – how can Alex’s parents ignore what’s going on in the face of such irrefutable evidence?

After a brief detour to the ’80s for prequel entry part 3, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman return to the post-PA2 timeline for the fourth instalment, where an unfortunate suburban family become the victims of familiar spectral monkey business after they invite young Damien-wannabe Robbie into their home.

More so than previous entries in the series, PA4 plays a great deal of its runtime for laughs. A soundtrack consisting almost entirely of guttural rumblings creates ominous tension, and cheap jump scares are frequent occurrences, but relief is rarely more than a wisecrack away. As a result it’s not half as scary as you might hope – until the utterly nerve-shredding final 10 minutes, that is.

PA4 falls somewhat short of the benchmark set by the first and third films, but is a step up from the dull second chapter. Joost and Schuman are talented filmmakers, but ones clearly desperate to work outside the confines of the found-footage format. At this rate the series is in danger of going off the rails. Time to go back to basics.

Jordan Farley

Get up to speed on the previous three films by watching a Paranormal Activity recap video.