PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 Review

Let's talk about the Paranormal Activity series and what it has become. At this point most people will be quick to dismiss it as nothing more than a cash cow for Paramount who turns a huge profit off these things by making them for next to nothing and placing them in theaters every year around this time to see how many of us show up to see where the mythology of the films go next. I don't know that I have a problem with it, at least, not until the films themselves become obvious to the audience as to what they really are. For the time being though, the studio has been lucky enough to have New York filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) who also made the third installment and writer Christopher Landon who co-wrote the second and penned the third and fourth all on his own. Each of these individuals have managed to inject a good amount of fun into the franchise while also investing enough in the movies that we can tell they are pretty excited about where the franchise could potentially take the story and that they want to be a part of that. I tend to forget how wrapped up in these movies I get. I have begun to even view seeing them as more of an obligation than a genuine thrill or excitement for scares. When it comes down to it though, and I sit down with the people so genuinely portrayed on screen and not your standard horror-heroine cliches I remember how invested I have become in these movies and how, despite this being the least scary in the series, it moves the story along and pushes the mythology surrounding Katie and her demon-tainted life.

Young Wyatt begins to act strange after becoming
friends with the neighbor, Robbie.
Paranormal Activity 4 picks up where number two left off. In reality this feels more like what should have been the third film in the series, but it is nice to have that knowledge the third film provided, that backstory that allows us to have a little more insight on what exactly might be going on with Katie and her troubled childhood. So, at the end of the second one, if you don't recall, Katie killed her sister and took her first born son, Hunter. We're told they disappeared and haven't been seen since. Skip forward a few years to 2011 and we are introduced to a new, lovely little suburban family that includes our protagonist for this entry Alex (Kathryn Newton) her younger brother Wyatt and her boyfriend (who, by the way, is the best part of the movie) Ben (Matt Shively). There are of course the parents as well, but they do little more than what parents normally do when their kids start telling them weird things are happening. The family is asked to watch a boy from across the street, Robbie, for a few days when his mom suddenly has to go to the hospital. Robbie (a very creepy Brady Allen) is the one who brings the activity with him this time and is keen on becoming good friends with innocent Wyatt. It is hard to go into any further detail than this without giving away anything. As with any movie in this series there is a god amount of tension that fills the air throughout and plenty of relatable humor to everyday life that gets overlooked. We aren't bothered or annoyed by these people as one might imagine. We feel on the same level with them as an audience and in many ways that is the last strand these movies have going for them in separating them from every other found footage film that has come along since the first Paranormal Activity. Like I said, this entry may be the least chilling of the four, but it has its charms and it certainly helps move the story along in a way that last years didn't fully satisfy.

Alex (Kathryn Newton) experiences some strange activity
when the neighbor boy stays with her family.
The problem the makers have run into here is that they are running out of gags to pull on us. They are also running out of ways to convince us that so much of these peoples lives could be caught on camera. Who carries around their laptop that much? The same things that were used to scare us in part one are beginning to repeat and after the all out freakfest of three it was always going to be hard to top. They should have likely stopped with that third one and in doing so would have spared this franchise from becoming what everyone now thinks of all the Saw films instead of just five through seven. People dismiss the entire series because of how far it went and how bad it became. I really hoped that wouldn't happen here, that those moments from the first couple of films that truly freaked you out and had you nervous walking out of the theater and into the dark parking lot or rushing to turn the light on before you stepped into your house would remain golden moments of this franchise, but instead, now, have been completely discredited. That isn't to say I didn't like this fourth entry, it has its moments, it has a couple of good scares, but the bit is running dry. It is almost becoming "not cool" to go see these movies and when that stigma hits your franchise you should go ahead and stop. Too bad cred doesn't outweigh deep pockets though as that will be the real determining factor in when we will stop seeing Paranormal films show up every October.

The ultimate question though comes down to does it move the story along? No matter the stigma that becomes attached to the series after this point, I won't completely stop watching until the story no longer interests me. They still have me hooked at the moment, drawn in by who Robbie might actually be, where he came from, what happens next and what in the world is the reason for the successful party we get a peek at in the final shot of this film. Yes, I will go see Paranormal Activity 5 and I can only hope it wraps up a story and doesn't make enough money so that it may be the final nail in the coffin, preserving what attraction these films still have left in them.