Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Paranormal Activity 4



(2012) ***1/2

Packing more scares than all previous installments, Paranormal Activity 4 is a winner. The story picks up 6 years after the original film (those keeping track might recall that Paranormal Activity 3 was actually a prequel set in the 1980s) and follows a new family: parents who are not getting along, teenage daughter Alex, and 6 year old son Wyatt. One day “Robbie”, a strange little 6-year old, wanders into their yard from across the street. Apparently his mother was taken to the hospital for reasons unknown and Robbie has no place to go. With no other recourse the family takes him in while his mother recovers. This proves to be a big mistake. As strange things start occurring, Alex’s boyfriend sets up laptops and other surveillance equipment throughout the house to capture potential otherworldly activity. Before long it becomes apparent that there is something very wrong with Robbie and the family is in grave danger.


No other franchise in recent memory better illustrates the subjectivity of horror. The Paranormal Activity (i.e. found footage) films are downright divisive; you love and get freaked out by them or you’re bored and don’t understand all the fuss. I happen to fall into the former category. It is interesting to reflect on the horror fads over the past decade, which is easy to do when you have a handy horror blog containing hundreds of movie reviews thanks to many fine people. It started with vengeful ghosts in 1998 (e.g. The Ring, One Missed Call, Ghost Ship, etc). The tone eventually shifted to torture in 2004 (e.g. SAW, Hostel, Martyrs, etc) and starting with the original Paranormal Activity (2007) we seem to have increasingly moved into the “eerie”, found footage terrain. There will always be slashers and other sub-genres of horror available but it is interesting to following the changing fads over the years. My taste in horror has changed over this time period as well. Although I enjoy it all, the only movies that seem to get under my skin these days are the found footage films (e.g. Lake Mungo, The Tunnel, Grave Encounters, Etc.).


Paranormal Activity 4 has the usual jolts we have come to expect from this series with a few new (scary) tricks. At the core this film series is a haunted house story full of swinging chandeliers, doors opening and closing by themselves, eerie levitation, and even some strange business with an XBOX Kinect system. The series excels with the choice not to have a soundtrack and its use of pure silence much of the time. As is fast becoming the hallmark of this series the final few minutes are downright dreradful and chilling. If you didn’t like the original Paranormal Activity don’t bother with this one but if you did you’re going to love this effective sequel. Stay through the credits if you want to see a brief teaser for a Spanish spin-off.

9 comments:

DCD said...

I'm so glad you liked this! I know I wasn't as enthusiastic about number three but I still love this series.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I'm just surprised you beat Trevor to the punch!

I'm glad you're enjoying these films JPX but as a card carrying hater of found footage paranormal films your review seems to say "more of the same with a few new surprises".

(Cue Wampa chewing a bone.)

Catfreeek said...

I was bored with the first one but did enjoy 2 and 3. I've always enjoyed a good ghost flick from the old ones to the new. I do like the way this series uses many of the old tricks but incorporates and emphasizes modern technology making it current and nostalgic at the same time. I'm looking forward to seeing this one

Catfreeek said...

Oh and that first pic looks like the kid is made from lite brite

JPX said...

Haha, JSP, I was indeed thinking of that Wampa when I wrote that. You always claim to dislike found footage stuff but every time you see one you seem to like it (e.g. Troll Hunter, The Tunnel, Lake Mungo, etc). My sense is that you just didn't like the original Paranormal Activity. You should check out Grave Encounters...

Johnny Sweatpants said...

My problem isn't with found footage films, it's with the found footage paranormal stuff. I disliked the first PA and didn't much care for Paranormal Entities either. I can't muster the energy to check out any of the sequels. Enough already!!

Trevor said...

I'm surprised you beat me to the punch too! Not really. I got a cold and didnt' venture out this weekend. I agree with Cat. The first one was sort of boring, but the 2nd and 3rd really expanded the story/mythology behind the paranormal activity.

I'm hoping the fourth one continues it and fleshes out the story a bit more. Part 5 has been announced for next year!

JPX said...

Trevor, you are going to be slightly disappointed because the mythology of the series does not get advaanced beyond a 5-second shot at the end of the film that will make you demand Paranormal Activity 5 immediately!

Octopunk said...

I feel like a non-smoker trying to chat with my smoking coworkers during their regular smoke break. I still have yet to see any of these!

Another good wrapup, JPX.