Film Review: “Paranormal Activity 4”

All of the “Paranormal Activity” hallmarks you’ve come to expect are here: demons, covens and cursed children.

“He doesn’t like you.”

Review by David Feltman

Having made its name with slow burn suspense and indie simplicity, the “Paranormal Activity” franchise has long since found its core demographic. The budget and the special effects have only increased as the series has progressed, but the films haven’t dropped their “bump in the night” aesthetic to cater to fans of overproduced gore fests and horror remakes. With the kind of box office bank these films have made, they haven’t had to.

Serving as the first true sequel in the series, the film jumps forward to show what happened after Katie and Hunter’s disappearance in the first two films. A pair of FaceTime addicted teenagers start playing junior detectives when a creepy little neighbor boy takes up residence in their backyard jungle gym. Hijinks ensues.

One would think that after three found footage films documenting unseen forces moving furniture around, the formula would grow stale. And in all honesty, this fourth entry doesn’t hit the high water mark of its predecessors in terms of scares. What “Paranormal Activity 4” does do admirably, however, is sustain the eeriness of the series.

All of the “Paranormal Activity” hallmarks you’ve come to expect are here: demons, covens and cursed children. The film feels syncopated as the shots waltz between cameras in 4/4 time. The score itself is nearly non-existent in its minimalism. A low rumble rides a slow crescendo to build suspense. That is all that’s ever offered, but its effectiveness is beyond dispute. Yet all of these tricks are old hat for these movies. The fourth film finds some fresh ground with some chilling uses of the X Box Kinect and a door alarm that sounds the phrase “Front door, open.” This, in conjunction with some clever nods to “The Shining,” manages to milk some more miles out of the formula.

Missed opportunities with the story and a few minor set pieces that never pay off (why the filmmakers didn’t do something scary with that humidifier, I’ll never know) may leave fans of the series a little dissatisfied. But taken on its own merits, “Paranormal Activity 4” is a fun haunted house flick that delivers a few terrific edge-of-your-seat moments.

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