'Paranormal Activity 4' (2012) Movie Review

Paramount's marketing of Paranormal Activity 4 says "the activity has led to this". Fortunately, the film lives up to this promise in an installment that serves more as a direct sequel to the second film while using elements of the third to build its back-story. In a lot of ways, Paranormal Activity 4 closes a trilogy, with Paranormal Activity 3 serving as the outcast and most likely where the inevitable Paranormal Activity 5 will pick-up.

'Paranormal Activity 4'
Grade: B-

Paranormal Activity 4"Paranormal Activity 4" is a Paramount Pictures release, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and is rated R for language and some violence/terror.

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The film opens, recapping the events in Paranormal Activity 2 wherein Katie (Katie Featherston) is seen killing her sister and kidnapping young Hunter. Those events took place in Carlsbad, California in 2006 and we're reminded Katie and Hunter haven't been seen since.

The story jumps five years later to Henderson, Nevada where a new family is introduced including Alex (Kathryn Newton), her younger brother Wyatt and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively). They soon become more acquainted with the boy from across the street, Robbie (Brady Allen), after his mother is suddenly rushed off to the hospital in the middle of the night and he becomes a temporary member of the family. However, with Robbie comes "activity".

Alex, like every protagonist in this franchise, has an obsession with filming her daily life, a fact it seems only the Paranormal Activity films can get away with for this long despite how unlikely it is someone would record even one-tenth of what is eventually seen in these films. As it turns out, though, she's not the only one doing a little recording.

After their late night Skype conversations, Ben lets the camera roll and records Alex while she sleeps. Creepy? Yes. But it's okay because he catches a little something, a little something called Robbie creeping into Alex's bed at night. This, along with a series of strange events in the house sets Alex on edge and she and Ben set up all the webcams in the house to record every waking moment when they aren't capturing everything else on their cell phones. It's ridiculous, but a necessity if these stories are to maintain their appeal, we all saw what happened with Blair Witch 2.

I won't go into much further detail other than to say returning Paranormal Activity 3 directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman have managed to keep the franchise afloat despite this probably being the least scary installment yet. Scares this time around include a mixture of satisfying "jump" moments (some of which are quite cheap), ghostly Xbox Kinect pixels and sequences such as a scene where Alex is levitated above her bed for absolutely no reason and to no frightening effect. As for the R-rating, it's deserved but, had they snipped only a few seconds and a couple of F-bombs, this could have been PG-13 quite easily.

Screenwriter Christopher Landon clearly knew where he wanted to take things with the franchise after co-writing the second film. He would take sole writing duties on 3 and 4 and all three films work well with one another and, most likely to Paramount's extreme delight, the franchise remains open to two separate, but connected, plotlines for future installments.

Paranormal Activity 4 may end up being looked at as the least progressive of the franchise in terms of the mythology opened in 3, but it's a film more about tying up loose ends from 2 and ultimately serves its purpose. Now, I have to assume, Paranormal Activity 5 will return to the late '80s and pick up where grandma left off.