The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Paranormal Activity 4

The problem with the Paranormal Activity series is that it's become nothing more than an assembly line product. Paramount Pictures has decided that it has to get a new installment into theaters every Halloween, which means that each film is made quickly, leaving little time for innovation, story development, character know, the things that constitute actual artistry. Paranormal Activity 4 exemplifies the problem. This fourth chapter is proof that the series has run out of ideas, it's all been done, there's nothing new to add, just pack up and go home.

The big twist this time around is that the movie adds – are you sitting down for this? - a creepy child! Kathryn Newton (Bad Teacher) plays 15 year-old Alex, who is perturbed to discover that her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) has been recording their video chats. She changes her mind after the weird little boy across the street comes to stay with her family while his mother is hospitalized. Soon, strange and unexplained events start occurring. Sheets are ripped off beds! TVs turn themselves on and off! People get dragged down hallways! Alex then asks Ben to record everything that goes on in her house so she can monitor what the kid is up to. Katie Featherston is back once again, but I suppose it would technically constitute a spoiler to tell you her function. Let's just say that PA4 tries to tie itself into the events of PA2.

Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) and writer Christopher Landon incorporate new technology into the story. Some of the movie's action is captured via a video chat program (Alex seemingly carries her laptop wherever she goes) and there's a recurring bit involving a Kinect program for the Xbox 360. Neither of these things really delivers much impact. The chat program was used more effectively in the recent V/H/S, while the Kinect is only cool the first of the dozen or so times they use it. The remainder of the scare scenes are largely variations on what we've already seen in the first three movies. I found it insanely easy to guess what was going to happen before it actually did. Nothing is less frightening than seeing the “scares” coming a mile away. There's far more tedium than terror here.

The original Paranormal Activity was one of only seven movies that I would say legitimately scared me. The sequels have steadily decreased in quality, culminating with this fourth installment. I know exactly why this is the case: in Oren Peli's original, the malevolent spirit, while never directly seen, is a vital character. It has an agenda, acting as an antagonist to the main characters. The implication is that they are pissing it off with their attempts to capture it on video, which causes it to act in more threatening ways every night. The sequels, meanwhile, have treated the spirit as a freak show, a thing that occasionally messes with people just to provide some shock value. Its presence gets diminished with each rapidly-produced chapter, and that, in turn, takes away the sense of mounting dread that made the first one such a nerve-rattling experience.

Despite decent performances from the two teen actors and a moderately interesting final three minutes, Paranormal Activity 4 is everything I hate in a sequel. It's pointless, repetitive, and ineffective. It has no reason to exist except that a movie studio wanted to squeeze some more money out of a cheap-but-profitable franchise.

( 1/2 out of four)

Paranormal Activity 4 is rated R for language and some violence/terror. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.

Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.