I personally think that Paranormal Activity 4 focusing on teens is a nice change. I know this movie is pretty much hated, but I generally thought it quite effective. However, I viewed the extended cut on Blu-ray, which may add something for all I know.
There are some great aspects to Paranormal Activity 4. I like the teen girl protagonist and her boyfriend. A creepy little boy is also a good addition. And hell, it starts on Halloween day! There’s also a new camera twist; this time, the teens set the house up with computer webcams. There are plenty of jump scares, and the series has definitely mastered the art of making us see things that aren’t really there. Every two seconds, I was like, “is that a person standing in the corner?” only to realize it was a round vase on a tall cabinet or a basketball sitting atop a narrow shelf. The film is most definitely a treat if you’re looking to psyche yourself into hair-raising chills.
It’s also great if you want to nitpick. The crucial premise to the movie is kind of ridiculous. A family gets a new neighbor. Next thing you know, they haven’t even met the neighbor (a single mom), and she is whisked off to the hospital and her weird little son comes to stay with them. Honestly, you spend the whole movie annoyed by the absurdity of the situation.
But an even bigger problem for me is that the teen girl, who immediately catches on that something evil has come into their home, walks brazenly around the house at night in the dark, very often with her laptop computer as her guiding light. She follows the weird little neighbor as he roams around and talks to an imaginary friend. She checks strange noises and moving chandeliers. She investigates opening garage doors and even ventures outside…at like three in the morning!!! Okay. At 44 years old, I won’t even walk into the next room at sunset unless there’s a fricking light on in it. Sure, I am pretty much the equivalent of a 15 year old girl—which is exactly why this chick should be acting just as I would. (I’m only a girl when it comes to reacting to scary things. Otherwise, I’m a big burly butch…bottom).
Other problems include the fact that the girl has her boyfriend set up all these webcams—but then never checks them! If she did, she’d see all the fucked up stuff she assumes is going on in her house at night actually IS. There is major obnoxious Xbox Kinect product placement; not only do the kids play it, they USE its infrared capability to film the ghostly activity. They also have one of the most psychic-impaired cats EVER. This thing roams nonchalantly around the house and never once flinches at so much as a book flying off a shelf.
There are head-scratchers too. The weird neighbor boy has a fork that he claims tells the future—but we never see it again. Seemed like it was going to mean something. There’s a levitation scene that has no bearing on anything and seems to just be the creators proving to us they can work magic on a low budget. You also don’t quite understand what role the weird little boy plays in the overall plot by the time we get to the end. And it seems like the “presence” haunting them sort of transforms from a ghost into an actual physical entity in the blink of an eye—and might also be a possessed person? Or is that a demon?
And that leads to the biggest problem, which may be intentional. The film leaves you with so many questions that you simply can’t help but hope for a sequel that explains it all. Not that anything has been cleared up after 4 movies. Paranormal Activity is beginning to suffer from Saw syndrome. We have to get a new one every Halloween, and we have no choice but to just watch it for the cheap thrills because the plot is getting too complicated, the timeline is becoming impossible to follow, and we are quickly moving past not understanding what’s going on to not caring what’s going on.
All I’ll say about the end of this film is that it looks like a recruiting video for the ANTI-One Million Moms. Sign me up for that cult!