Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

A new family moves in across the street from Alex (Kathryn Newton).  The mother is never seen; in fact, early on, she is taken to the hospital, and her son Robbie (Brady Allen) comes to stay with Alex's family for a few days.

The situation is already tense.  Alex's adopted brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) is reticent around Robbie at first, and her parents (Stephen Dunhan and Alexondra Lee) are too busy bickering to notice anything else that is going on.  The only one besides Alex who senses something is strange is her boyfriend Ben (Matt Lively), who helps her set the computers up around the house so she can film the goings on.

Of course, things start to go on.  Swaying chandeliers, knives falling from the ceiling and cars starting by themselves.  Also, Robbie seems to be exhibiting an unnerving influence on Wyatt.  Increasingly, the activity grows stronger as Alex finds herself fighting for her life against strange forces that seem out to take her brother away.

This fourth installment in the series has received a lot of unnecessary hate.  Sure, the premise to get everything filmed is running very thin.  This time it's a bunch of Macbooks and the Kinect on the XBox.  The house, like in the first two, seems to belong to a family that is quite well-off, so it is hard for most of the audience to connect like they would to a more middle-class family getting attacked.  Also, where the third installment (which was largely back story) was quite effective in advancing the story, this one really doesn't add anything to it until the very last scenes.  There is also still too much reliance on jump scares.

The good is that the more subtle scares work: a ghostly image caught on the Kinect dots, Katie's (Katie Featherston) ability to teleport into and out of the family's house and the knife scene.  The most tense scene involves Alex trapped in a garage with the car running, and is one of the best in the series.

I admit that I do like these "found footage" horror films, and they are largely entertaining even though the lengths they go to trying to make it look real are getting to be a bit ridiculous.  In the case of the Paranormal Activity series, we pretty much understand the story line, and future installments that mean to wrap it up would do well to abandon the found footage genre and go for a straight film.  What is actually happening with the coven and where Hunter falls into it all is much, much more interesting than a bunch of things bumping around the house

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
Time: 96 minutes
Starring: Kathryn Newton, Aiden Lovekamp, Brady Allen, Katie Featherston
Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman


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