Paranormal Activity 4 is neither inventive nor appealing, and certainly not worth your time.
If you've witnessed this series before, you will no doubt remember its structure, presenting the audience with camcorder-style shots and time markers in the corner. Of course it's all meant to lend a sense of terror for what's about to come; but in the case of Paranormal, we feel like time is there only to remind us of how much the film is sucking our will to live. Never existing beyond a low pulse, its plot about a family being terrorized by a demon who seems to vaguely want something simply becomes boring after 35 minutes of nothing happening. Kathryn Newton (Gary Unmarried) does play the 15-year-old scared daughter Alex well, screaming and cursing as Katie (Katie Featherston) and her kidnapped son Robbie (Brady Allen) bring their demon friends over for a little kill. Adding to the misery is her boyfriend Alex (Matt Shivley), who can't wait to get into the girl's pants but for now enjoys recording Alex as she sleeps (and apparently farts). Not what one would consider captivating storytelling.
Even after things start getting weird, Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (PA 3) can't seem to hold things together, opting for characters that are never explained, and an ending which encourages screams of frustration rather than ones based on calculated attempts to frighten us. Christopher Landon, whose previous PA films slowly but effectively built up the tension, opts instead for boredom wrapped in falling books, chandeliers, knives, and cats. When it's time for Alex and family to die, we only wish Landon had remembered his high school English teacher's lessons on rewarding the audience during the climax for their efforts to stick with the story. As Act 3 drags itself onto the stage, the only thing the audience has seen is shadowy muted figures and household furniture behaving badly. The ending takes too long to develop, reminding us of true 'lost footage' films like Blair Witch than anything unique or innovative.
Paranormal stretches the bounds of credibility by raising the tension far too often, only to have absolutely nothing occur. Much like a prom date who refuses to give it up until the end of the evening, and whose lack of sexual combustibility at that time makes one wonder why we bothered at all, Paranormal Activity 4 is a totally frustrating experience from start to finish. Its complete lack of payoff fills us with more anxiety than terror, never really going anywhere we haven't already been. In an age when audiences deserve and expect payoff from these kinds of films, this one just leaves us wondering if the franchise needs to be sucked in to the deep beyond, where so many of its hapless victims can kick its ass for being so dumb. Paranormal Activity 4 is rated R for wanna-be scary lameness and has a runtime of 88 minutes.
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