Paranormal Activity 4 takes place five years after the disappearances of Katie and Hunter from the first two films. In this third sequel, a suburban family witnesses strange events after a mysterious woman and her son move into their neighborhood. Alex and her boyfriend, Ben, investigate and try to catch everything on film, as the activity escalates. Soon everyone is in danger.
The Paranormal Activity series came on the scene in 2009 and immediately established itself as the new horror franchise as interest in the Saw films started to wane. They’ve come out every October over the last four years, and while not everyone has bought into the found footage craze that has resulted, it’s hard to argue against the hold these films have on our collective minds. The first three were far more refined than The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, and a lot more subtle than entries in other horror franchises like Friday the 13th and Saw. The fourth film in the series continues this tradition and delivers what we’ve come to expect.
I’m not going to waste my time and recommend this to viewers who didn’t like the first three or aren’t into found footage films. Paranormal Activity 4 isn’t likely to have crossover appeal for folks who didn’t enjoy the previous entries. What PA4 is, though, is a love letter to the fans. Like other successful franchises, it learns delivers what fans want while also giving us a little more. The scares are perfectly timed. Most of the film is spent teasing the viewer, not giving us a jump when we expect it, but just when we let our guard down. The ending, in particular, was really fucking cool. I don’t want to give anything away, but it was an unexpected treat that got a great reaction from the audience.
What also made Paranormal Activity 4 work was the characters. Again, we’re given a cast of real people dealing with unreal situations. It has an almost off-the-cuff feel to it. There are no movie stars chewing scenery. In one particular sequence, the way a certain character reacts to a knife falling from the ceiling manages to be both realistic and funny as hell. Alex (Kathryn Newton) was a likable lead and as a viewer, I was willing to journey with her, even though I feared that she wouldn’t meet a pleasant end.
All in all, I really dug it. I get excited for these Paranormal Activity films the way folks in the 80s probably got excited for Freddy and Jason, and this one did not disappoint. I will, however reiterate that if you hated the first three films, the fourth film isn’t going to convert you and isn’t trying to. If you’re like me, and appreciate what the first three had to offer, then I recommend that you spend your weekend in the theaters, enjoying this new chapter in the Paranormal Activity franchise.
Paranormal Activity 4 is now playing in Philly-area theaters.