Big things happen to a horror franchise when it hits it's fourth sequel. For "Friday the 13th" it was the "death" of Jason Voorhees at the hands of Corey Feldman. Micheal Myers returned to the land of the living after disappearing completely in "Halloween 3." In the fourth Chucky film, the little doll finally found love.
So what achievement does the Paranormal series lay claim to in it's fourth outing? Sadly, it can shamefully say that it's the most mediocre entry in the series thus far.
When PA3 was announced, I was concerned that the series was soon going to become stale and predictable, possibly suffering from sequel fatigue. However, Paramount wisely brought in new talent to reinvigorate the series and, in my opinion, it worked. PA3 added a healthy dose of story and direction that the series needed to stay alive and amped up the scares in some inventive ways.
Along comes "Paranormal Activity 4" which features the talent behind the success of part three and yet the results are vastly different. In this film we follow Alex, a young teenage girl, dealing with some crazy paranormal bullshit after the neighbor's creepy kid comes to spend a few days with them.
After the way the plot line was fluffed up in PA3 I was really excited to see how they would expand upon what they started. Even some of the promotional material for PA4 promised to deliver answers to questions that had plagued the series. However, as I left the theater I could only scratch my head and wonder "What was the fucking point of any of that?" Not only do we not get any concrete answers, but we're left with way more questions and a lot of the questions have to deal with plot holes rather than the mythology. I wish I could go further into this, but some of the stranger plot holes revolve around major plot points in the movie.
However, even with a weak story a horror movie can recover with strong scares. As seen in the previous movies, this series can deliver some pretty iconic. The furniture falling from the ceiling, the ghost under the sheet, Katie appearing in the house and so on. When I think back on PA4 though, there are no scares that have such a memorable factor. That's not to say that the film isn't scary. You'll get plenty of jump scares and creepy atmospheres to hold you over. Instead of inventing new scares though, PA4 is content with rehashing old ones. It's as if the movie is playing out it's greatest hits while nudging your arm and saying "Hey, remember when we did this one?"
With a shitty story and mediocre scares, are there any aspects about the movie that are enjoyable? Actually, the relationship between young Alex and her boyfriend is pretty damn engaging. The film primarily relies on the dynamics between these two characters and thankfully they turn out to be a humorous and charming pairing. Without them I shudder to think how dull this movie would have been.
This movie is a far cry from the standard established in the previous film, but it provides enough chills and laughs to justify watching it this Halloween season. These movies are the cinematic equivalent of a haunted house attraction and if you can keep that in mind, then you're bound to have fun. Ultimately though, when you stand back and look at these films as a whole it'll be hard to ignore that this was a misstep in the franchise.
Oh and stay till the end of the credits. One of the "new" things this movie does is that it adds a little surprise at the end which makes absolutely no sense without a bit of context.