“Paranormal Activity” is nothing more than your normal spooks and scares.
If you find yourself sitting in a dark theatre, shoving handfuls of popcorn into your mouth and wondering why the movie you’re watching has the resolution of your last Skype chat, chances are you’re seeing the latest “Paranormal Activity” film. The popular horror franchise uses camcorders, webcams, and, in the newest installment, an Xbox Kinect to track a demonic force that terrorizes average suburban families.
“Paranormal Activity 4” begins where the second film ends: a possessed Katie (Katie Heatherston) abducts her infant nephew and disappears into the night. (The third film is a prequel set in the 80s.) Fast forward five years later and meet a new family complete with feuding parents (Stephen Dunham and Alexondra Lee), school–aged son, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) and young teen Alex (Kathryn Newton), which soon begins to experience hauntings of their own.
When Robbie (Brady Allen), the creepy neighbor child near Wyatt’s age, begins lurking around the family’s house, and bizarre events start occurring, Alex and her boyfriend (Matt Shively) install webcams around her house to record the action. Alex and Ben’s awkward teenage romance consumes much of the plot, with Ben supplying such eloquent one–liners as “Quick, boobies!” This failed attempt at pubescent humor at least provides a bit of reprieve from the prolonged shots of people sleeping and shadows crossing over doors.
As the film progresses, it attempts in vain to build suspense, relying on a laundry list of horror film clichés ranging from creaking doors and squeaking floors to your run–of–the–mill “gotcha!” scares. Hardly the makings of a cinematic masterpiece.
Solid acting and a gut wrenching ending struggle to keep the film alive, but a trite storyline, long shots of empty rooms and unresolved plot lines leave “Paranormal Activity 4” its own ultimate victim.
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Starring: Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee, Brady Allen, and Katie Featherston