Silver Chips Online

Paranormal Activity on the verge of becoming normal activity

The same plot, but with new characters and inconsistencies

By Lily Gates, Online Features Editor and Richard Chen, Online Opinions and Entertainment Editor
October 25, 2012
Just when you thought the series was over, there still remain unanswered questions and more confusion.

Paranormal Activity 4

(released October 19, 2012)
Katie Featherston stars in the fourth installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise Courtesy of Hollywood
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Katie Featherston stars in the fourth installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise
The first Paranormal Activity was successful in popularizing the "found footage" style of modern horror cinema. With its unpredictable jump scares and chilling cinematography, it easily won a place in our hearts as a horror icon. Paranormal Activities 2 and 3 followed up on the first's success, and evolved it's gripping plot with a twisted back story and a horrific explanation to the nature of the paranormal entities haunting in the series. However, Paranormal Activity 4, even though it's a sequel to Paranormal Activity 2, steps backwards in terms of shocks, thrills and ambience. Failing to deliver explanations for the events in the previous movies, Paranormal Activity 4 turns its iconic "found footage" style into a horror cliché and gimmick.

The story takes place five years after Katie (Katie Featherson) kills her family and kidnaps Hunter. The movie centers on a new family, primarily the teenage daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her younger brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). Strange activity begins when Alex's family's temporarily takes in their new neighbor, son Robbie (Brady Allen), Katie's son. As the paranormal events occur, Alex and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) set up cameras to document the evidence.

Many new characters are introduced in the fourth movie; however, screenplay writer Christopher Landon introduces these unrealistic characters with two-dimensional personalities. Alex's boyfriend Ben's character lacks depth and primarily serves as comic relief. Their relationship can be described by Ben's forward sexual desires and Alex awkward declines. Although Ben's character isn't well developed, he provides a comic relief with his stereotypical hormonal teenage boy persona. However, his light-hearted character seems out of place because the general ambiance of the Paranormal Activity series is much darker.

Robbie standing outside of Alex's room. Courtesy of LA Times
Robbie standing outside of Alex's room.
Another character that lacks much development is Robbie. Robbie is initially introduced in the fourth movie with the audience knowing little about him. Landon writes little dialogue for Robbie, which makes him appear even more obscure. However, the way Robbie reads his lines sounds juvenile and doesn't hint at having any paranormal entity influencing his behavior. Although the manner in which Robbie moves fits his character, his poor acting diminishes his realism.

Besides the actors, the story itself has many inconsistencies, which ruins the movie's suspense-built realism. Story writer Chad Feehan makes Alex's family respond unrealistically to the abnormalities. Early in the film, Alex's parents willingly let Robbie temporarily live with them without background knowledge about him or his family. Although this amount of generosity could happen in reality, it is highly unlikely someone would allow a child who causes ruckuses at 3 a.m. almost every night to stay in their home.

Perhaps the biggest let down in this movie, the order in which paranormal events occurs makes the film boring to watch. The few jump scares are simply loud noises accompanied with a cheaply done special effect of an object moving. The audience can also easily predict when something bad is going to happen in the manner the movie sets up its jump scares. Before every jump scare, they will play white noise in the background to disorientate the audience and have the actors move up close to the camera so something will pop up.

Katie Featherston stars in the fourth installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise Courtesy of Hollywood
Katie Featherston stars in the fourth installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise
Paranormal Activity does try and implement something new, as they use lap top web cams, Xbox web cams, and phone cameras to catch the paranormal activity at work. While this is certainly a refreshing addition to the franchise, this high-tech equipment ultimately fails when the characters forget to look at the evidence the recordings provided. Shortly after Ben and Alex set up the cameras, Alex checks the footage after each night, but as the paranormal activity increases, Alex stops checking it as often as if her IQ went down a plot hole. Dumb horror clichés like this makes the audience palm their foreheads and marvel at how unbelievable these characters are.

To top off everything mediocre in this film, the ending was a train wreck and provided little closure to the mystery it created centering around Katie and Hunter. Critics said that only die-hard fans would love this movie, but in actuality I bet die-hard fans would be the most disappointed, especially because of how terrible this movie ended.

The Paranormal Activity franchise is declining, but if you're still a fan after seeing this, news of two more films in the series is said to be released next year. Because really, who doesn't want to watch essentially the same movie six times?

""Paranormal Activity 4" (95 minutes) is rated R for language and some violence/terror. Now playing at theaters everywhere."

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