“Paranormal Activity 4” Movie Review

     If you consider yourself a fan of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, than what you have with the fourth entry in the series is a serviceable film that delivers what you likely expect but not much of what you don’t.  Returning from the third film for the fourth are directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.  The pair of directors really put a lot of effort into the third film by injecting a prequel style premise and several inventive touches, while still using the same found footage elements from the first two films.  For some unknown reason, Joost and Schulman play it safe with “Paranormal Activity 4” and opt to repeat the general style and narrative of “Paranormal Activity 2” instead of breaking new ground.  The result is a rather average film.

     Five years after the events of “Paranormal Activity 2”, we now get the story of what happened to Katie after she took Hunter from his crib and killed her sister in the process.  The proceedings move from San Diego to Henderson, Nevada which really creeps me out.  I’m from San Diego and saw the original “Paranormal Activity” while on vacation there.  I also happen to live in Henderson, so it seems these films are somehow following me, but I digress.  We immediately meet a well to do family comprised of a card board mom and dad and two kids, Alex (Kathryn Newton) and Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp).  Alex’s boyfriend, Ben (Matt Shively), is a frequent visitor to the home and he and Alex spend a lot of time commenting on the strange boy who lives with his mother across the street.  The boy arrives one day and Alex’s mom introduces him as Robbie (Brady Allen), along with a story about how he will be staying with them for a few days because his single mother is in the hospital for a few days.

     Like the two sisters in the second film, Wyatt and Robbie begin to discuss the presence of an invisible friend and that part of the plot goes exactly the way you think it will.  “Paranormal Activity 4” follows a series of day and night events in which the “Activity” goes from subtle to blatantly obvious.  The adult characters struggle to believe what they are being told is anything more than coincidence or their imagination.  The teenagers, of course, rig several lap tops throughout the home and take advantage of their built in cameras to record what’s going on throughout the house.  As in the other films, this gives the filmmakers plenty of opportunities to give the audience a scare and they do succeed several times, but not nearly as much as the previous films.  You may recall the clever panning camera from the third film and the suspense it was able to create just by panning away from something you thought was about to happen and then panning back to it.  “Paranormal Activity 4” offers nothing comparable and made me think the filmmakers hit a wall creatively.  They even go the route of paying homage to films such as “The Shining” and “Poltergeist”, something this series has never done before.

     As is the case with each of the previous films, suspense and tension is created with a slow build until about the final five to seven minutes at which time all hell breaks loose.  The mother across the street is Katie herself, but is Robbie actually Hunter?  The film certainly wants you to think so, but as the proceedings come to a close there are new questions which are left unanswered for the inevitable fifth film next year.  There’s no doubt “Paranormal Activity 4” is engaging at times and if your a fan already than you likely will experience the same feeling you did in the previous films.  I have to give them credit for putting out a quality film the fourth time around, but the fact they didn’t come up with something new as they had in all of the previous films significantly lessens the impact.  They have done nothing more than rehash familiar elements from the previous films and yet there still seems to be a viable hook.  These films seem to be more of a thrilling experience rather than a conventional movie and it appears the masses don’t mind. GRADE: C