Finally, finally, after three amazing films, the Paranormal Activity franchise cracks. I expected this two films ago; I nervously waited for it happen still one film ago. And now it’s here, and I wish it wasn’t. Isn’t that a perfect feeling for this franchise? Once the studio realized they had a hit on their hands, they churned out 2, 3, and 4 very fast. I loved the first three, but this one I did not. Paranormal Activity 4 features an entirely new family in Nevada. Things start to get weird when the young boy across the street lives with them for a few days because his mom is in the hospital. Alex, the teenage daughter, starts to notice something is happening and solicits her boyfriend’s help in setting up cameras around the house to capture the events.
Same great idea, same camera concept. So much of this film followed the same formula as the first three, so what’s the difference? For starters, in this movie, Alex and Ben (her boyfriend) use laptops and an Xbox throughout the house as the cameras. While not a really clever use of the camera, it worked and didn’t annoy me until the Xbox. The film exploits the Xbox because it has night vision and the motion detector on it for gaming uses tiny fragments of light or something to track people. So, at night, it creates this weird effect of lime green dots everywhere. This was distracting and it annoyed me how much the film used it. In addition, this film isn’t anywhere near as scary as the previous three. The weird noises and occurrences are few and far between, leading to less suspense and less scare. The movie seemed to move at a much slower pace than before, and I missed the paranoid feeling I had watching the others.
The main reason why this film just didn’t carry its weight was because of the one thing they did different. Paranormal Activity has always been a simple story about an organic fear and how that can turn into something horrific. In this film, the story becomes much more complicated. I read online that this story is a huge setup for where the filmmakers are taking the next sequel and that saddens me. I loved how simple these plots were; they were not dramatic or complex, but beautiful in their plainness. This movie added a story that was not only complicated but confusing. Instead of my typical reaction at the end, which has been “Holy shit, did that just happen?” I responded with “What the hell was that? I’m confused.” Maybe the filmmakers want the audience to be confused, mistaking confusing for a cliffhanger. It didn’t work, though, because I’m not excited to clear up the confusion, I’m just disappointed.
This franchise is still saving horror, despite this mediocre entry. I wish the creators stuck with what makes this movie so great: its simplicity. Instead, they opted to muddy the waters with bits and pieces of a side story that I still can’t wrap my head around. The film leaves you with more questions than answers, and not in a good way.
If you liked Paranormal Activity 4, you might also like The Exorcist, Final Destination and The Evil Dead.