You can’t examine the skeletal plot of Paranormal Activity 4 without referencing key events from the first 3 films, so *Spoilers* may follow.
In essence the first three films can be summarised neatly as ‘What Katie did’, following Katie as she becomes possessed with the spirit of something or other before rendering any future family reunions unnecessary… as a last act Katie takes young nephew Hunter and vanishes.
But that was 2006, when you could only film stuff with spy cams and CCTV. Welcome folks to 2011 (in the film), when you apparently can’t take a breath without someone filming it.
We meet Ma, Pa, older sister Alex and adopted young son Wyatt as they schmooze through their everyday existence. They live in a large spacious house with two storeys and a closed-in garage, filled with strategic doors, nooks, crannies and wide open spaces. They also have numerous things that might be used to record these often drab events, that is if they chose to.
Of course they choose to.
As always the film starts slow and builds towards something, focusing more on Alex and her constant conversations with local boyfriend wannabe Ben that are forever captured by webcams or his hand held camera… Or the X-Box Kinect… Or the cameras that seem to be installed all over the house for no apparent reason… Or the laptop skype cam which is apparently always on even when the laptop is not…
The action heats up when a single mother and her young son move across the road, with the young boy Robbie taking an apparent interest in the new across the street neighbours for no apparent reason. Within minutes Robbie is everywhere, lurking in the kid’s playhouse in the yard in the middle of the night or standing in the driveway and staring at the house, emotionless and creepy like any quiet child.
Then one morning he moves in with the family (!) who have apparently decided that he would be better served living with them. I can only imagine the breakfast convo; ‘Honey you know the kid from across the road? Yeah the creepy one like Damien from The Omen, that’s him. I think he should live with us… Honey… Honey?!?’
Of course Robbie is a weird kid, obsessed with 100 year old cutlery (!) and scuttling about the home at all hours, often standing silently over the sleeping…
It’s exactly the same formula. Quiet. Quiet. Still. Harmless. This time around I waited 80 minutes for the fridge door camera to pay off. Only the pay off arrived elsewhere, and when it did it was thoroughly underwhelming. In fact take out the big loud noises and you’ve got nuthin’ much really. (I’m actually far more concerned with how Katie put on a few kgs since 2006, it must be all the standing and watching over the sleeping instead of cardio.)
In Paranormal 1 this was ingenious and unsettling, Paranormal 2 was too samey to stand out, and while Paranormal 3 introduced a couple of new elements it was obvious that the air was almost out of this particular balloon. Consider this the final wheeze.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. If you have to watch it, rent the DVD in a few months and watch it with the sound off. Then wonder what the fuss was ever about.