Directors: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost
Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Kathryn Newton, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovecamp
Running Time: 88 minutes
Release: October 19th, 2012
What is there left to say about a series of overblown theme park rides that masquerade as films? Not a hell of a lot, as it would seem. Paranormal Activity 4 enters the Halloween season with lazy aplomb; lining out a story set five years after the second film, wherein Katie kidnapped nephew Hunter and absconded into mystery. Katie now lives in obscurity, neighbouring our family of protagonists. Now, teenager Alex and her potential boyfriend grapple with gimmicks and ghouls in this outstandingly boring and overwrought sequel that should never have been.
All the usual supernaturalism is on offer: inanimate household objects gain motion, people are thrown around the room, doors and blankets open and fall off, you get the gist. This time, however, directors Schulman and Joost (previously paired for the far more enjoyable third outing of the franchise) have attempted to hide the tired fact that there is no prevailing idea behind this horror trainwreck. This fact is lamely buried under the usual tedium of lethargic camera tricks and cheap gimmickry. Once more, the occupying spirit must deal with tech-savvy mortals, this time setting up laptops to record and stream at all times and using infrared Xbox Kinect footage in an attempt to pick up demonic movement from the other world. While curiously interesting at points, the audience will spend most of the time effectively Skyping with the film’s content.
No one thinks to question why two teenagers do nothing but hang out in a 15 year old girl’s room filming each other for seemingly arbitrary reasons. It doesn’t seem strange that a demonic spirit that can throw a fully grown person across a room bothers its time moving chairs and bikes a foot at a time. Get on with it! Through various interactions with certain paranormal activity (see what I did there?), the characters piece together a chop-shop occultist story about a witches’ coven that kidnaps young boys for unexplained reasons. Again, we find the fatal flaw of the franchise’s attitude towards the horror genre: the original idea must come first. It must be so psychologically jarring that an audience can’t help but live in suspense for the entire run-time. Cheap jump scares work once or twice, but eventually it is evident that there is no substance whatsoever. This current team of Paranormal Activists could learn a lot from their old colleagues, now of Insidious fame.
What this film boils down to is an annoying rainy Sunday spent in Harvey Norman’s. They just keep ramming fancy technology in front of you like that somehow means something. Gimmicks and never ending sales of tawdry and often misleading advertising. If reviews are a film’s Terms and Conditions, then this one reminds you that there is NO money back guarantee. Thankfully, you can get off this theme park ride whenever you like.