Paranormal Activity 4

Year: 2012
Studio: Paramount
Director: Ariel Schulman/Henry Joost
Writer: Christopher Landon/Chad Feehan
Cast: Kathryn Newton, Katie Featherston, Matt Shively

This series has received a lot of hate as it's progressed, but in all honestly it's been unfairly maligned. If you watch the original film and then this one, the approach is the same – it's about a supernatural entity in a modern, well-appointed house, as seen through the various audio-visual technology of the day.

There's no blood or gore, very few cheap jump scares, and the screen time given to the actual 'monsters' (actually the humans involved who are possessed by the real bad guy) can be counted in seconds. If the Jaws effect is all about hiding your antagonist for maximum effect, the whole Paranormal Series adheres to it – more than most, in fact.

All of the above is presented in a light but sketched out backstory that carries the plot along. If anything, this installment has more of a backstory than the original by virtue of the fact that we know more about the history surrounding Kate's (Katie Featherston) family.

As teenage heroine Alex, Katherine Newton won't win an Oscar for this sort of thing, but neither would the cast in the rest of the franchise. She lives opposite an apparently empty house in a quiet Nevada neighbourhood, but strange things start happening that it turns out are caused by a woman and a young boy who move in across the road.

It's not until well into the story that we realise the woman is none other than the now-evil Katie, the young boy the nephew Hunter she kidnapped at the end of Paranormal Activity 2 for the demonic rituals of her family coven.

After what seems to be an accident in the new house, Alex's parents agree to take Hunter (now called Robbie to hide his identity) in and take care of him while Katie's away.

Having invited the thing from beyond to live with them, the paranormal proverbial starts to hit the fan, and Alex recruits her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) to try and find out what's going on, her parents too busy to listen or care.

When things turn really sour, it's thanks to a contrivance of timing that several members of the family meet nasty ends before Alex goes across the road in the middle of the night, following her Dad (who's on the hunt for Katie). The last 20 seconds of the film are the scariest of the whole series and if you're at all a horror movie wimp, you won't want to watch any of it alone late at night. By that measure, it's as effective a horror movie as there's ever been.

Maybe the naysayers are just tired of the same approach, but the Paranormal Activity brand is shorthand for the elements listed at the beginning of this review, no more and no less. If that's not your bag, you were never going to like it.

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