Paranormal Activity 4 is the latest in the horror franchise and carries on the series, picking up five years after Katie and her infant nephew Hunter disappeared at the end of the second movie (the third was a prequel to PA1).
A young family meet Robbie, a strange child that lives across the road with his mother, who has taken to hanging out in the family’s tree house uninvited. Weird kid comes to stay when his mother is taken away by the ambulance in the middle of the night, becomes friends with family’s son and things begin to go bump in the night. Teenage daughter begins to have her suspicions about Robbie and ‘something weird happening in the house’ and with her boyfriend’s help, decides to set up cameras all over the house to capture proof of what’s going on.
As with the other movies, the film is pieced together from random bits of footage, captured as the family go about their business, giving the audience a ‘fly on the wall’ insight as to what’s going on. Unlike the other films that largely relied on stationary video cameras stationed throughout the house, this one makes it relevant to today by capturing videos via motion sensing laptops set up around the house to capture the strangeness, webcam chats between the girl and her boyfriend, and even a mobile phone, think Facetime or Skype. Footage is also captured using a camera linked to the X-Box Kinect game, set up in the family’s lounge room which uses infrared tracking dots to monitor motion… tracking dots that prove very good at showing movement when no one is in the room! Clever, right?
Like the previous movies, it is quite slow with events unfolding without much supernatural activity for the first half of the film. However, while the previous movies picked up pace and kept building consistently after the action began to happen, this film holds most of the action till almost the end leaving most of the movie to flat line before peaking in the last 10-15 minutes.
As this one carries on from the second film, it touches on the demonic possession and the coven of witches featured in the previous ones, but not in any depth, and certainly adds no clarity to how the witches are involved. It also uses some of the symbolism previously seen but again, doesn’t delve into this or provide anything new you don’t already know from the other films.
While this movie is clever in parts and fans of the series will probably still like it, there are only a few scary moments before the last 10 minutes (most of them being more creepy than scary before then) and overall, it’s not as scary as Paranormal Activity 2 or 3.
Unsurprisingly, a hidden scene after the end of the credits set it up for number 5 with a single line of dialogue, “It’s just the beginning”. However how much further they can take this series on its current legs, remains to be seen.