Paranormal Activity 4: The Resounding ‘Meh’
Fresh back from seeing the latest installment of the Paranormal Activity series has left me wanting more…and not necessarily in a good way. Oh and their’s optional spoilers ahead, so don’t go touchin the red unless you’re ready. Mind, body, and spirit. Just sayin.
This time we’re following a family of four (plus one…or two. Kinda): 15 year old Alex, her younger brother Wyatt, and their parents. The plus twos are Alex’s boyfriend Ben, and Robbie, the new kid accross the street who’s “mom” is rushed to the hospital, landing him with the unsuspecting family. Robbie is weird. And the kid playing him is perfect. He talks only to Wyatt and his friend Toby (yes that Toby), has a 100 year old stuffed animal, a fork that tells the future, and wears socks with sandals. We’re all certain he’ll be an ax murderer, or a P.E. teacher or something.
That brings me to the cast. Their wonderful. I’m not too partial to the parents, (they meet their demise in pretty satisfying was. I guess.) and their marriage troubles set up in the beginning really don’t matter much. But Alex and her boyfriend Ben are absolutely relateable and likable, as is Wyatt. This helps keep you invested in them as characters throughout the film and makes their deaths (minus Wyatt) all the more unfortunate. Katie also makes her return of course. This time she’s posing as Robbie’s mother who we find lounging about her unpacked house, after she has supposedly been sick and dumped her kid off on some strangers. Her role in this film is a bit uncertain, as with many things in this franchise, and really only helps muddy the story.
Which brings me to the “story”. Yikes. It’s not bad, per se. But it doesn’t live up to the others at all especially not the third, which I think is the best one. Number 3 contributed to the overall story, had a great cast, and was pretty scary. This one likes to set up all sorts of cool possibilities, and throws in a lot of things to go for the “scare factor” but in the end it doesn’t really amount to anything but a quick jolt. For example, there’s a weak attempt to tie in a reference to The Shining when Wyatt is riding on his big wheel throughout the house. It only serves as an awkward nod to a better film that makes you kind of wistful that this one had its shit together. Even their good ideas feel unfinished. They shoot infared to show the X-Box Kinect’s tracking dots, which is at first really cool. They then have a few things fly by, and show up and it’s all compellingly eerie. Until they have a small, invisible child figure follow Wyatt downstairs, creepin along and being creepy, only to never explain what it was, or even have any of the characters see the footage. Beyond that, it serves no purpose other than an awkward scare, and doesn’t contribute anything to the overall story. Now, I know I just heard a bunch of you mentally scoff (I’m psychic and stuff). But the previous three have set up this demonic, witch coven, haunting story that could be really interesting. If only they’d tell it.
That being said, Katie’s “son”, Robbie, is not what he seems as he’s initially thought to be Hunter, Katie’s kidnapped nephew. However it turns out that Wyatt is adopted, and is actually Hunter, and Robbie seems to have only been a way to introduce Wyatt/Hunter to Toby, everyone’s favorite child loving demon. Which would be more compelling if they took it anywhere. Alex and her boyfriend even start looking through the wisdom of the interwebs to find out about the strange ‘circle in triangle’ symbol they find, but it ends up serving no purpose. By the end, Katie and her massive coven have Hunter, for whatever reason, Robbie has disappeared, and Alex, Ben and her parents are all dead. The surprises are minimal, as what you saw in the trailer is probably about half the movie and the scares tend to hinge more on making you uncomfortable than actually scared.
All in all, it was enjoyable for me only because I liked the characters. I stopped enjoying when I realized that they were going to do nothing else but have Katie go all demon face and tear a ho’s head off or whatever. All this movie ended up being was a milking of the franchise, a maneuver I guess I should have come to expect by now. I read another review that called this film “…an eerie setup for another sequel.” That’s great. But you can’t spend an hour an a half setting up for another movie. It only serves to make this movie feel like the incomplete hodge podge mess that it is. So another sequel? God lets hope not.
And don’t even get me started on the post credits…
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