Today I made the decision to watch Paranormal Activity 4, the latest in the money printing supernatural horror series that began in 2007 and has since evolved from subtlety to outright silliness. As the film concluded with its daftly awkward ending, a humourous usher at the cinema remarks 'I'll see you back for the next three!'. The next three. Paranormal Activity 5, 6 and 7. Everyone and their mother will be gazing at the statement in terror, with feelings of negativity pumping through their veins; and yet, the films will still catch money like diseases. But what exactly makes them such enticing films? Who knows, but Paranormal Activity 4 certainly doesn't exemplify the answer.
Alex Nelson (Kathryn Newton) lives next door to an isolated house inhabited by deranged child Robbie (Brady Allen) who frequently sneaks into her own property alongside an apparent invisible 'friend'. When Robbie comes to stay with Alex and her family following the hospitalization of his mother, an unsettling atmosphere arises and mysterious sounds begin to plague the house corridors. Determined to locate the source of the paranormality, Alex and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shivley) set up a network of CCTV cameras across the building to uncover the true motives of Robbie and the mysterious entity he speaks of.
What made the first Paranormal Activity so effective in areas was the actual realism behind the use of home video footage and the subtlety of the events, such as the simplistic but tension mounting opening of a door. As the series progressed these tactics became naught but abused clichés, and the fourth installment enjoys lounging back on these instead of injecting any effort or innovation into the storyline or content. Devoid of any scares, Paranormal Activity 4 baby feeds you with irritatingly loud noises, quiet moments which only serve to prepare the aforementioned jump scares and a home video footage style which is utterly contrived. Seriously, why the hell are these people carrying expensive cameras everywhere they go?
There is little else I can say of this film that isn't utterly obvious. The premise is tired and the conventions were dead and buried long before this latest iteration: supernatural horror isn't a lost cause, but films like this make you doubt its success in contemporary cinema. The acting is stupid, the product placement is horrendous and the lack of scares makes this a bloated and unnecessarily long borefest. Might I also add that the reasonably scary scene shown in the trailer is not in the film. Total bullshit.