The fourth installment in the Paranormal Activity franchise is by far its most modern. The Movie Fanatic Paranormal Activity 4 review can state that rarely has the series utilized modern technology as wizardly as they do in their latest.
The first film formally ushered in the era of the found footage film with its use of security cameras and hand-held cameras that were beginning to be the norm. It’s hard to believe it’s only been five years since that first film changed everything as it shocked the world to go from a filmed on someone’s dime to international blockbuster. Yet, technology has changed rapidly since then and Paranormal Activity 4 effectively incorporates much more that captures our lives than a simple hand-held camera.
Paranormal Activity 2 was a true sequel to the first and utilized similar technology while the third film took audiences back to the 1980s to show how the Activity started and was brilliant in its showcasing the beginning days of videocassettes and home movies.
With Paranormal Activity 4, series creator Oren Peli and the film’s directors (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who also helmed Paranormal Activity 3) still use home security cameras and handheld video cams, but also smartly employ the fact that every phone has a camera while each laptop out there now too possesses a camera and most teens (the main subject of our fourth film) spend hours video chatting. Also, our main family in the film owns a Microsoft Kinect and its ability to see physical movement in the dark is one of the scariest parts of the film!
The film’s opening moments set up the series from its origins and remind us of how when we last saw Katie, she and her nephew Hunter disappeared after Katie killed her sister and her family. Audiences are then taken through today (well, 2011) where we find ourselves in a Nevada suburb. Kathryn Newton is Alex, a teen who spends much of her time when she’s not at school on her computer video chatting with her BFF, also named Alex (Matt Shively).
One day their neighbor has to go to the hospital and her mysterious son, Robbie, comes to stay with them for a few days. Yes, the Paranormal Activity begins. Soon after, Alex is so freaked out by the little boy who wanders the house at night that she implores her friend to have every computer in the house set to record everything. It is there that we are taken into the horror, but unfortunately, it simply takes too long to get there.
The scares, in the first act, are mostly senseless jolts caused by the family’s cat walking across the plane of view of a computer camera. In the second act, they are more frequent and a little more fearful, but still don’t pack the punches that were achieved in the first two acts of the first three films.
Yet, Paranormal Activity 4 does build to one of the most frightening conclusions we’ve ever seen on screen. And for that, it is worth going through the motions to get to the terror of the film’s final ten minutes.