The Paranormal Activity franchise has had a very mixed reception in the past, and with the fourth instalment, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman deliver yet another low-budget, adrenaline-fuelled monster of a movie.
Robbie (Brady Allen), the weird kid from across the road, comes to stay after his adopted mum has a mysterious accident. Then the weird shit starts to happen to Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her family, and only she has the footage to prove it. Her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) rigs the family’s laptops to record everything in sight, and what they witness is truly mind-bending.
Paranormal Activity 4 touches on the concept of a zombie apocalypse, whilst sticking safely to the typical child-exorcism storyline its predecessors have taken, adding a nice twist for the dedicated fans.
Sticking to the traditional Para plot, the evil demon from the first three films comes back in search of Hunter, who you may remember as the kidnapped baby from Para 3. Of course, we never fully see the monster; instead our thrills are left to string-pull techniques, bodies being dragged and one particularly jumpy moment with a rogue kitchen knife.
A lot of the favourite techniques from past Para movies are included, such as when Holly (Alexondra Lee, Alex’s mum) is thrown violently around the living room. No found-footage horror film would be complete without the classic ‘there’s-probably-a-demon-behind-you’ reveal shot, either.
This time round, more modern aspects of the 21st century are incorporated into the film, such as using the infa-red dots from an Xbox Kinect to see at night. There’s a surprising amount of comic appeal, with Ben’s corny lines and the typical parental views on ‘boyfriends and bedroom doors,’ which contrasts with the tense scenes and makes them seem jumpier than they really are.
The restrictions of hand-held filming mean you can never quite tell if there’s going to be some kind of monster crouched round the corner, or if the cat is simply feeling energetic, and it’s this feature that makes Para 4 skittish.
Unfortunately ‘jumpy’ is all this film is, as nothing really stands out as particularly scary – though judging from the screamers dotted around the cinema, I could just be cynical.
Joost and Schulman almost killed the child exorcism storyline, as so many good horror films nowadays play around with this idea. This view is left to speculation until the very end of the film, however, which in true Blair Witch Project style is arguably the best part of the movie.
Paranormal Activity 4 has successfully lived up to its predecessors’ standards. Half the audience laughed whilst the other half were perpetually petrified. As a modern horror film, it’s not a bad attempt.