Paranormal Activity 4 finds the franchise foundering
Starring Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, and Katie Featherston. Rated 14A.
It was inevitable, I suppose. After three extremely scary and engrossing films about regular folks being menaced by demonic forces in their comfy homes, the Paranormal Activity franchise is running out of ways to keep the terror level at 10. The fourth entry in the hugely successful film series just can't match the others in the nightmare-making department.
PA4 picks up five years after the disappearance of Katie (Katie Featherston) and toddler Hunter, whom the possessed Katie kidnapped at the end of 2010's PA2 (which, like last year's PA3, was a prequel to the original Paranormal Activity of 2007). The two now live somewhere in Nevada, across the street from a family that includes pretty 15-year-old Alex (Kathryn Newton of TV's Gary Unmarried), who spends most of her screen time bantering inanely with her slacker pal Ben (Matt Shively), whose main goal in life appears to be hanging around her place.
After Katie winds up in the hospital for an undisclosed reason, Alex's mom offers to take care of Hunter (now called Robbie) for a few days, so Alex becomes his babysitter and her little brother, Wyatt, his constant companion. To make things interesting, Robbie (Brady Allen) brings along an imaginary friend.
But things never really get interesting in Paranormal Activity 4. Apart from Robbie acting weird and some mysterious sights and sounds being caught on various video cameras, laptops, and video-game consoles, hardly anything worthwhile happens during the first hour. A kitchen knife goes flying up and a chandelier comes crashing down. Big whoop.
The allure of the previous films came via carefully timed sequences that showed insidious supernatural forces undermining the perceived safety of the home, but that creeping sense of dread doesn't come across this time.
Instead of skilfully manoeuvring the mundane aspects of domestic life to portray demonic forces at work, the makers of PA4 mainly went with Featherston. Sorry, folks, but she's just not terrifying enough. More hot than scary, I'm afraid.