May. 23, 2013 - Issue #918: Protest City
Paranormal Activity 4
Less boo for your buck!
When Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her family, including adopted brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), take in neighbour Katie's "son" Robbie, she starts noting strange disturbances. So she and her video-chatting boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) decide to set up internal surveillance for their home security, placing laptops and other cameras around the house to watch what's going on.
Whereas PA3, set in 1988, was retro-eerie in its use of a slowly rotating camera, there's something boringly up-to-date about PA4. It's tough to care much about the fate of a generic, whitebread family and its blonde-in-distress living in an airless, gated-community Nevada. The tension between Alex's parents is little developed and we've seen the creepy kid and freaked-out teens in countless fear-fests before. While some of the latest tech is used well (one scene, where a soon-to-be victim takes up most of the view from a laptop-cam, is creepily good), other tech isn't (a video-game motion-sensing system comes off as a banal strobe-effect). And it's clear, if you've seen PA3, what all the shadowy spirit-business is leading up to, though the build-up here is fitful.
There's little depth or subtext to come back to here and the signs of a quickly done, low-budget, on-location movie-shoot are starting to crackle through the screen more and more. By the end of Paranormal Activity 4, there's that faint, unnerving feeling of having just been led through a haunted house for some ghoul-cool and getting only a few boo!s for one's buck.
Directed by: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
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