Paranormal Activity 4
Directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost. Starring Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Micah Sloat, Brady Allen 16 cert, general release, 88 min
WHEN THE SPOOKY little boy from across the street comes to stay with perky teen Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her shiny nuclear family, things quickly start going bump in the night.
Could it be that Alex and her camera-mad boyfriend are about to fall victim to the chair-rattling, door-slamming, light-switching evil that is the Paranormal Activity demon? Mwa ha ha ha.
Again. Be afraid, foolish mortals, for the dark entity is upping his game. Once you trembled in fear as he unscrewed a kitchen saucepan rack: now cower in abject horror as he drops a whole freaking chandelier.
A time of great evil is upon us, an age of tricking with the garage door and drawing super sinister symbols in marker. And lo: they’ll totally never get those stains out. Watch in unending agony as the eternal one makes whooshing sounds in the eerie motion sensor glow of a Kinect and changes the settings on a MacBook. Can your heart withstand the terror of finding Satan’s minion calling on all of his unholy powers to hide out in a little boy’s treehouse? Who says evil is banal?
The penultimate chapter (so we’re told) in the Paranormal Activity sequence is light on scares and lighter still on innovations. A post-credit sequence hints we’ve been watching a bridging film, the fright fan’s answer to Back to the Future 2. Fans will feel equally cheated to discover that PA4 is actually a sequel to PA2. Paranormal Activity movies were a whole lot more fun when each installment was a prequel to the last. And we were so looking forward to the daguerreotype found footage of Paranormal Activity 23. It’ll do just fine as a makeweight Halloween entertainment, we suppose.
Oren Peli’s mega-franchise has never exactly been the spookiest ride at the fun-fair. The sequence’s charms have always depended on game Halloween audiences, creaky hinges and popcorn spills. Even here, at its lowest ebb, PA4 is the kind of unpretentious old-school entertainment William Castle would be proud of.
We’ll always be grateful for the found footage revival and the overthrow of torture porn. But if this were the Saw franchise, we’d be hoping for Cary Elwes to walk through a hidden door and call time.