The first Paranormal Activity stormed the country with massive word-of-mouth generating over $100M in box office receipts on a $15k budget. But now with a new entry coming out nearly every year, the franchise has grown tired. Paranormal Activity 4 is an inane and confusing story, when it’s not downright boring, to go along with subpar acting, especially from the two kids, and a set-up which takes too long to develop, intermixed with scares which were far from it.
Genre(s): Suspense/Thriller, Horror
Paramount | R/Unrated – 87/96 min. – $39.99 | January 29, 2013
Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Writer(s): Oren Peli (original material), Chad Feehan (story), Christopher Landon (screenplay)
Cast: Katie Featherstone, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Aiden Lovekamp, Brady Allen, Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee
Theatrical Release Date: October 19, 2012
Features: Deleted Scenes, DVD Copy, Digital Copy, UltraViolet Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Disc Size: 31.7 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 1.75/5
So I now know how it must have felt in the 1980s with the plethora of needless yet abundant number of horror sequels such as Friday the 13th. Now on its fourth, yes FOURTH, outing, Paranormal Activity 4 continues the “story” of a malevolent being playing havoc on an innocent family of course will come out fine and live to see another day…
After a prologue opening showing the abduction of a baby named Hunter by his apparently possessed Aunt Katie (KATIE FEATHERSTONE), we fast forward five years in a quiet community in Henderson, Nevada. There we meet our victims… err… family which includes teenage girl/tease Alex (KATHRYN NEWTON), brother Wyatt (AIDEN LOVEKAMP), dad Doug (STEPHEN DUNHAM) and clueless mother Holly (ALEXONDRA LEE). Alex has a boyfriend named Ben (MATT SHIVELY) who tends to hang around the house all the time until it’s not convenient for the so-called plot.
As Alex and Ben take Wyatt out tick-or-treating, they notice new neighbors moving in across the street but other than a little boy, don’t see much else outside of the movers. Things do get odd when, later one, Alex and Ben climb up a tree house in Alex’s backyard where, out of nowhere, Ben turns around and the creepy neighbor kid is standing right there. How exactly he’s able to get by unnoticed is beyond me, but seems like a nifty trick everyone does in this film. In any case, Alex now knows this kid, named Robbie (BRADY ALLEN), and takes him back home.
Later that night, after some real nothing going on save for some Internet chatter between Alex and Ben discussing potential marital problems for Alex’s parents, she hears sirens and looks outside to see an ambulance at the new house. The next day, almost randomly, Robbie stops by extends a friendly (i.e. creepy) hand to Wyatt and the two go off the play. What’s going on you might ask? Well, apparently, without any discussion, Robbie is going to stay with them until his mother gets out of the hospital, which will be at least a few days.
Of course, as soon as he moves in, strange things start happening around the house: bumps and thumps at all times of the day, the two kids running around in the middle of the night and both, at some point, talking to some entity which is off-camera. Oh, speaking of which, to force in the concept of capturing of the activity, the boyfriend/whatever-he-is programs the computers and hides other cameras around the house to always stay on and record. Then, when need be, Alex can log in and review the footage… that is, if she can remember the username and password which she tends to do.
Along with the strange goings on downstairs, Alex has some force messing with her as well including, while drugged up on prescription sleeping pills her mother gave her (Alex was having trouble sleeping, go figure), and as she slept, the bed sheets are pulled out and she’s lifted into the air. Why was this done when she’s clearly not awake to experience it? Not sure, but it does make for one hell of a trailer shot! It would seem the filmmakers caught the episode of “Fact or Faked” where, on the series, they were able to re-create a similar motion, which was based on an Internet hoax, using thin wires to lift the individual up.
Alright, honestly I haven’t the foggiest clue what the hell was going on in Paranormal Activity 4. Yeah, I get there was a malevolent entity haunting this family but other than that – and its obvious connections with the previous installments in the series – the motives of Robbie’s mother is never hinted at, hoping to continue the “saga” into a sixth entry. But why in the world was this particular family chosen? There is a reason for it involving using Wyatt, I think, as a vessel for a ghost child, presumably Hunter, to take over his body. But this begs the question, was Wyatt Hunter or is Hunter actually a spirit? If so, what the hell happened to Hunter? Better question, though, is why in the world do I need to break down the movie as if it were “War and Peace”???
The cast, filled with relatively unknowns, a staple of the franchise (helping to keep it more “real” and the budget low), aren’t too bad, though Alexondra Lee as the mother was awfully annoying in her nonchalant attitude towards what was going on with her daughter, though this has more to do with how the character was written than with Lee’s performance. Stephen Dunham, who was married in real life to Lee before his untimely passing in September 2012, is given the task of playing the doting father, but not much more to the character beyond the couple were having issues. Matt Shively, surprisingly, isn’t overly annoying as I thought he would be by the film’s end. This isn’t to say he’s well written but by the same token, he’s at least more likeable than the others. I’m not even going to delve into the kids because they are obnoxious and they’re truly terrible although the script and dreadful “dialogue” didn’t help matters.
The highlight, and perhaps only reason, to watch PA 4 is for Kathryn Newton, a young actress who, for a nice change, was playing her own age. She at least has a nice persona and you as a viewer actually have sympathy for what she goes through and the frustration of having a family, and a mother in particular, which didn’t seem to give a damn about it. Newton has only been in a couple projects in her career (including Bad Teacher and the short-lives series, “Gary Unmarried”) so I hope she has continued success because if she can make it through drivel like this, that’s saying something.
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the duo behind PA3, Paranormal Activity 4 is a sorry sequel into a one-note story that should’ve ended after the second one. But thanks to the fact you’ve got a low production budget where the studio quadruples its money on the opening weekend, they’ll continue to churn them out (the fifth one is set for release in October 2013) with even more and more ludicrous stories and half-assed dialogue until audiences finally grow tired of it, which sadly, may not be anytime soon unless the filmmakers finally decide to put an end to the series.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.25/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside, there is a slip containing a code for both the standard Digital Copy as well as the UltraViolet Digital Copy. Also included is a DVD Copy.
The only feature are some Recovered Files (28:56; HD), which are merely more innocuous footage which doesn’t do anything except pad the running time. I suspect it’s just the cast having a bit of fun. OTOH, there was one scene which made the mother look like a bigger idiot than she already was.
The disc also has an Unrated Version which is about 9-minutes longer.
VIDEO – 3.5/5
Given the movie is meant to look like it was shot on video (either with a video camera or on a laptop cam), this is not exactly an amazing looking picture. There are many scenes which are pixilated although I will say that other shots look crystal clear and HD. Having not closely looked the other PA Blu-ray releases, I suspect they look similar and thus are only adequate.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
On a similar front, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t all that effective save for the various thumps in the house, because most of the action takes place in the center channel with the many dialogue scenes. As with the picture, the lossless audio is more sufficient more than anything else. For those who love the movie, it’ll certainly provide some screams with each jump scare or thumping in the house.
OVERALL – 2.0/5
Overall, the first Paranormal Activity stormed the country with massive word-of-mouth generating over $100M in box office receipts on a $15k budget. But now with a new entry coming out nearly every year, the franchise has grown tired. Paranormal Activity 4 is an inane and confusing story, when it’s not downright boring, to go along with subpar acting, especially from the two kids, and a set-up which takes too long to develop, intermixed with scares which were far from it. If there is one bright spot, it’s with the young Kathryn Newton as she escapes relatively unscathed. This is one activity that should be ignored and hopefully, unless the filmmakers and demonstrate otherwise, audiences will hopefully vote with their wallets/pocketbooks and skip any future installments.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.