Paranormal Activity 4 is the first proper sequel to Paranormal Activity. Whereas the second Paranormal Activity film showed events that were happening at the same time as the first film and the third film took place several years before the first one, Paranormal Activity 4 actually takes place several years after the conclusion of the first and second films. It also makes an attempt to further expand the franchise’s mythology but, ultimately, this film just proves that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
In Paranormal Activity 4, Kathryn Newton plays Alex, a teenager who is suspicious of both her odd neighbor Katie (played by a returning Katie Featherston) and Katie’s creepy son, Robbie (Brady Allen). When Katie is mysteriously taken ill, Alex’s family agrees to take in Robbie while Katie recovers. As soon as Robbie movies in, all of the usual Paranormal Activity stuff starts happenings. Doors are mysteriously slammed, a chandelier falls from the ceiling to the floor and nearly crushes Alex, and Robbie befriends Alex’s adopted little brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). Alex rightly suspects that Robbie is somehow involved with everything that’s happening but she can’t get her constantly bickering parents to listen to her. So, she does the next best thing and she gets her geeky (but cute) boyfriend (played by the very likable Matt Shively) to set up every computer in the house with a webcam. Soon, even more strange things are happening and the cameras are there to record all of it…
I saw Paranormal Activity 4 at a midnight screening with my best friend Evelyn and that’s probably the best way to see it, late at night when you’re less concerned about logic and surrounded by a bunch of people who are determined to make the film an interactive experience. The worst thing you can do, while watching a Paranormal Activity film, is to start thinking about why nobody ever leaves the house or whether or not someone would actually keep filming while being chased by demonic spirits. Instead, you just have to sit back and enjoy the silly experience for what it is.
When compared to the other films in the series, Paranormal Activity 4 is better than the first two entries but nowhere close to being as good as the third installment. Kathryn Newton and Matt Shively are likable in the lead roles and there’s an adorable orange house cat who shows up at various points during the film. (The cat may actually be the smartest character in the entire film because, whenever anything weird starts happening, she does the smart thing and leaves the room.) Plus, the house in Paranormal Activity 4 is a really nice house. Seriously, if not for the evil spirits and all that, I would love to live there.
Another year means another Paranormal Activity (or, as Evelyn put it when we saw this film, “Again with this?”). Since these films all tend to have the same strengths and flaws and since they all tend to tell the same story, they can be difficult to review. You can either enjoy these films for what they are or you can just throw your hands up in the air in frustration. If you enjoyed the first three Paranormal Activities, you’ll enjoy the fourth. If you spent the previous Paranormal Activity films wondering why everyone was so busy setting up video equipment (as opposed to just leaving the house), then Paranormal Activity 4 is not for you.