Paranormal Activity 4Paranormal Activity 4
Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Cast: Kathryn Newton, Katie Featherston, Matt Shively
Review by Brian M. Sammons

Dear Paramount Pictures, please stop.

You ever want to say that to a production company that turns out movie after movie in an endless chain? Especially to those moviemakers that churn out increasingly subpar sequels each and every year? As if it is their honest intention to bury whatever might have once been good or enjoyable in the first movie underneath a pile of derivative, rushed out the door fodder? Yep, that’s about where I am with the Paranormal Activity movies these days.

For the record, I really liked the original Paranormal Activity movie. It was a little slow at parts, and the boyfriend character was a complete tool, but it had enough going for it to make it enjoyable. And I liked the sequel. I thought it was as good, if not in some places a little better, than the original. The third movie I liked not so much. It still had a few good parts to it, I thought what they did with the oscillating fan camera was very cool, but on the whole you could see that the series was starting to slide downhill. Sadly, Paranormal Activity 4 continues that slide and if anything, it picks up speed towards the inevitable demise of the series. But to be fair, there are still a few (if only a very few) good scares to be beaten from the dead horse if you have the patience to do so. So let’s focus on those, and not so much on the stench that’s coming off of the bloated carcass.

This movie is set a few years after the second PA flick, as the third in the series was a prequel. It begins with a family unrelated to any of the others from the previous three films, but soon they get a new neighbor who has a strange little boy. Before too long the unseen mother of the kid gets hurt in some kind of accident and the new family, that just so happens to also have an unnatural addiction to recording their entire lives, sort of takes the kid into their house. Soon after, spooky stuff starts to happen as the creepy kid acts all kinds of creepy, doors open and close by themselves, stuff moves around in the background of scenes, and you know how all these movies end, right? Yep, this one pretty much ends the same way. Shocker.

Now out of all the farfetched things that have happen in these ghostly movies, the family taking a strange kid into their home has got to be at the top of the unbelievable list for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which are countless legal ones. That is a good example of how little the filmmakers cared about the story this time around. I guess you can’t blame them too much because they seem to have a mandate from on high to make one of these movies every year. It’s pretty much assembly line movie making, and a little thing like having a good story sure isn’t going to get in the way of that. But, let’s not get hung up on that one implausible thing when there are so many more nits to pick in this movie.

Perhaps the biggest nit is that everything you see here has already been done before. There is one new trick involving an Xbox Kinect that’s maybe good for a chill or two, but everything else has a been there, done that feel to it. Then there is this movie’s overreliance on BOO jump scares. While the first two Paranormal films had some jump scares in them, most of what made them good was anticipation and dread. Waiting for the spooky things to happen in the background where the characters couldn’t see them. Here it almost seems that Part 4 just couldn’t be bothered with any of that as again and again it goes for the shock instead of the creepy. Oh and let’s not forget the slow, plodding pace this movie is content to leisurely stroll at. Furthermore, while the other three PA movies expanded on the overall mythology behind their weird hauntings, this one adds not one thing new to the lore and is content to only tread water. Lastly there is the ridiculous final shot of this movie that I won’t ruin here, but I will say that it did cause me to laugh when it should have caused some sort of fear or shock or pretty much anything other than a laugh.

Now less I forget, I did say there were some good things in this movie somewhere, didn’t I? Well the acting is pretty good, even by the child actors and that’s saying something. A special shout out must go to young Kathryn Newton who has to carry most of this movie on her shoulders and does a pretty fair job of doing so. There’s some fun with a missing knife, a few funny one-liners, I’ve already mentioned the Xbox thing … and well that’s about it.

The new Blu-ray/DVD release from Paramount comes with both the theatrical version and the unrated version of the film, but honestly I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two. As far as extras go, there is “The Recovered Files” which is basically nearly thirty minutes of deleted scenes that were pretty much deleted for a reason. That’s it for the extras here.

Paranormal Activity 4 is not a good movie. It’s not horrible, but it’s boring, predictable, cliché, and worst of all for a horror flick, almost completely unfrightening. As such, I can’t recommend this to anyone. Even if you’re a fan of the previous PA movies, I still can’t recommend it to you. This sequel is unnecessary, does nothing new with the overall story, and very well could lessen your appreciation of the other movies should you sit through it. Consider Paranormal Activity 4 a pass.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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