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Paranormal Activity 4: Sometimes Demons Are Just Dicks

Paranormal Activity 4
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Written by Christopher Landon from a story by Chad Feehan
Paramount, 2012

It will be difficult talking about Paranormal Activity 4 without some sort of spoilers.  For those of you who like it quick and painless: Paranormal Activity 4 is bottom-of-the-barrel horror.  The other three in this series all had their moments, were all decent overall.  This one has lost almost everything that made those movies worthwhile.  I’m going to break it down further, but know that I’m going off the usual script for me and will be getting into a spoiler type of review, because the movie is just so damn confusing and ridiculous, just saying so isn’t enough.

1. First Off, The Plot.

The Paranormal Activity movies have always kept something back from us.  That’s an effective horror technique, because we’re not sure what we’re really getting into, and explanations can make horror unravel.  However, there is a deeply troubling aspect to the plot that needs to be explained because otherwise none of this makes any sense.  Maybe it’s something that can’t be explained because the explanation would be really, really, dumb.

Remember in Paranormal Activity 3 at the end, when Katie and her sister Kristi are taken upstairs by their witch/demon grandmother and the movie ends with this, “Oh no!  The demon/witch grandmother is taking them up the stairs and making them evil or something!” forgetting that in Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 (which, for some reason, I did not review), they’re walking around as adults and not remembering a damn thing?  You see, that doesn’t make sense.  (Now I’m about to get into a huge ultra-spoiler for Paranormal Activity 4, so avert your eyes if you don’t want to know): So, it really doesn’t make sense…at all…that the baby Hunter from Paranormal Activity 2, who was kidnapped by a demon-possessed Katie and had “never been seen again,” is now an adopted child in a new family with a new name.  What happened to Hunter after he was kidnapped?  Apparently, demon-possessed Katie went to McDonald’s and left Hunter behind at the Play Place.

Of course, they try to make you believe it’s this other asshole kid at first.  This kid wandering around without a parent and who barely talks.  Something happens across the street, and his mom has to be taken to the hospital, so the new family takes him in while the mom recovers.  That’s when crazy stuff starts happening, which, doesn’t make sense either.  Because if this adopted kid has been Hunter all along, for five years even, why did it take so long for the demons/witches to start haunting the new family?

The movie mainly focuses on teenage girl Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her kinda-sorta-high school boyfriend…Alex (Matt Shively) and how they start seeing crazy stuff on their Skype sessions.  So they want to record this new creepy kid getting up in the middle of the night and figuring out what the hell he’s up to.  The movie sets up cameras with laptops this go-around, including a Wii Kinect that gives us a shot of a room with all these bright green colored dots everywhere and can apparently pick up paranormal images as well.

2. Who or What is the Antagonist?

We’ve been scared of crazy-ass demons who apparently can only get so far in the middle of the night before tuckering out and needing to hit the otherworldly hay.  This demon has been clamoring after Katie and has even possessed her, and it doesn’t stop there, it wants Katie’s nephew.  And in general, it’s been a real nuisance overall.  It’s powerful enough to do a lot of things, but, well, we really don’t understand how this demon’s power works.  By the end of Paranormal Activity 3, however, we realize it’s not just a kidnapping demon, but a coven of witches, a concept Paranormal Activity 4 continues…ever so slightly.

Maybe this demon is their deity.  Maybe they’re trying to make it more powerful by feeding it children.  I don’t know.  But they are taking their sweet-ass time doing it, and I’m not sure what the real antagonist is anymore.  There’s a scene in this movie where the possessed Katie is upstairs, but a family member downstairs gets unexpectedly lifted and thrown to the ground out of nowhere.  And then Katie herself starts doing some dirty work on her own.  She manages to, at times, be invisible, like a spirit.  Sometimes she just shows up out of nowhere.  Other times, she feels the need to run really fast at her target.  In either case, we have a demon and a bunch of witches, and we have no idea how any of those things relate, what their powers really are, what their true motivations are driving them towards.  I understand being secretive/coy about their intentions, because it makes it scarier and you can make 5 more Paranormal Activitys so that people will be curious to know more on the next go round.  But now, it’s just stupid what’s going on.

Also, now we’ve been introduced into Mexico or a Mexican origin possibly being behind this.  The rabbit hole never ends.

3. The Jump Scares

So many things just happen for no reason.  While you could accuse the other Paranormal Activity movies of having those out-of-nowhere scares, they were effective because of their creativity, and they didn’t rely on them to keep a viewer interested.  This movie seems like it has to throw a jump scare in every ten minutes, and it’s always something stupid like a chair moving or a knife flying towards the ceiling or a toy train starting on its own.

A lot of this movie isn’t scary at all.  There’s one particularly effective scare towards the end, but by that time the movie is in its final minute.  The steam that could have been generated is gone, but a lot of people will leave the theatre thinking they saw something really scary…it’s a cheap trick.

4. Overall Impressions

It goes without saying that this movie is awful, and the filmmakers have made a movie of stupefying horror convenience, where they say it’s “paranormal” and thus don’t need to explain the things that make no sense whatsoever, and get characters to do things that are really inefficient to their needs.  They tiptoed the line well in the first three.  This one fell off the tightrope.


Comment from Jonathan
Time: October 22, 2012, 10:37 am

It’s kind of funny that I don’t disagree with anything you have said but I still enjoyed the hell out of the film. There were a few comments made about “when Hunter was ready”; not saying that answers everything, but maybe it will be at some point if anyone cares. I find all of these films to be a lot of fun, and I’m glad we are being exposed to this every Halloween now instead of the latest “Saw” crapfest.

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