Love them or hate them, there's no denying that these damned Paranormal Activity movies continue to bring in the money, and thus, the studios continue to pump them out. Hell, as I sit here typing this, there's a spin-off in theaters and a sequel coming out later this year. With that said, I have enjoyed the movies released so far. The original was downright excellent, and the previous sequels did dip in quality a bit, but they were still entertaining. So, here we are with the fourth entry in the series - does the quality continue to spiral, or does it breathe a breath of fresh air into the series?
Review by Chad
Added: January 05, 2014
Picking up after the second movie, this one centers around an average, all-American family. There's mom and dad in Doug (Stephen Dunham) and Holly (Alexondra Lee), their teenage daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton), and their young son Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). Typical family, nice house, great neighborhood - what more could you ask for? As it turns out, Alex enjoys filming damned near everything along with her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively), in addition to frequently talking to one another on Skype and lighting up the living room with the Xbox Kinect. Yeah, there's your "found footage" hook this time around.
Anyway, the movie centers around their new neighbors, a single mom (Katie Featherston) and her son Robbie (Brady Allen). They both seem a little off, maybe even weird, but they stick to themselves and don't bother anybody, so no harm done. Well, until ambulances show up in the middle of the night and haul the mother away, leaving poor Robbie all alone. Guess which family takes him in until his mom is back on her feet?
So, Robbie starts spending a lot of time with Wyatt, being that the two are about the same age, while Alex continues to record everything and starts to notice that something is really off. Like, "ghostly images caught on tape" and "loud thumps in the night" off... you know the drill. As the days wear on, things get more and more intense, and of course, nobody will listen to Alex as she desperately tries to show off the things that she has caught on tape.
By this point in the series, you probably already have an opinion of these movies. If you hated any of the previous ones, or the "genre" in general, go ahead and stop reading now: this one isn't going to win you over. However, if you've been a fan of the series so far, this one is worth watching... but it is definitely another step down in terms of overall quality. There is a storyline that carries over from movie to movie and that is furthered a bit, but let's be real here: the core of the movie is "escalating ghostly happenings caught on tape", and in that regard, this is simply more of the same.
In a way, I really can't fault the studios for how these movies play out. I mean, if you were to radically change things, it wouldn't exactly be a Paranormal Activity movie, would it? By the same token, if you stick to the formula, you're going to keep pumping out very similar movies. So, the only thing one can do is try to come up with some new tricks and gimmicks to make the idea work one more time, and that's where this one stumbles. There's a few neat scenes here, don't get me wrong: working the Kinect into the movie was pretty interesting (and a great product placement), and I thought that the scene with the knife was great. Overall though, I found that most of the scares were simply more of the same: doors shut on their own, we briefly see spooky figures in the background, thuds and thumps abound, and things fall off of shelves. Yawn.
One thing I do need to point out is that I thought Kathryn Newton did a great job in the leading role. She was only around fourteen years old while filming this, but she actually did a great job with it. She's believable, she has a great presence, and she continually manages to elevate her scenes with her expressions and mannerisms. Major credit to her, and I think she'll be a name to watch out for. The two young boys were also pretty good in their roles, though nothing special. I will say though, it's rare that I can watch child actors in horror movies without gritting my teeth, so there's something in their favor.
Fans of the series should watch it simply to keep up with the overarching storyline, even though it's obvious that the filmmakers are either stringing us along from one movie to the next or simply have no idea where they're going with it. Still, pushing that aside, it's an alright movie if you enjoy the series or the style: it doesn't bring anything new to the table, but if you can handle that, it's fairly enjoyable. 6/10.