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“Paranormal Activity 4” – A Barrel of Laughs

Paranormal Activity 4
Year: 2012
Genre: Horror
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Stars: Stephen Dunham, Katie Featherston, Matt Shively

It has been five years since the disappearance of Katie and Hunter, and a suburban family witness strange events in their neighborhood when a woman and a mysterious child move in.

There’s SPOILERS but, admit it, if you haven’t seen this movie you probably weren’t going to anyway.

This is the first Halloween in a few years that passed without the release of a new Paranormal Activity film to hit theaters.  That’s going to change, however, since Paranormal Activity 5 is slated for release October of 2015.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at the most recent entry to the series.  First though, a recap of my thoughts on the previous entries.

Paranormal Activity – It could have been effective but that Micah character was dreadful and NOTHING happened.
Paranormal Activity 2 – Well at least they continued a story and there was no more Micah.  Still, not that good.
Paranormal Activity 3 – A terrible prequel with a laughably terrible ending.  But at least it had the neat effect with the camera on the rotating fan (which was still dumb)

Which brings us now to last year’s Paranormal Activity 4 which is a horror film so bad I can’t even acknowledge that it’s supposed to be a horror film.  Rather, it’s just a comedy.

Continuing the Story

paranormal activity 1While Paranormal Activity 3 was a prequel to the series – Paranormal 4 takes place back in the present day – a few years after the events of Paranormal Activity 2 to be precise.  To catch the presumably forgetful audience up to speed we are reminded that Katie (Katie Featherston) was possessed by a demon, killed her sister’s family and kidnapped their infant son Hunter.  Their whereabouts currently unknown.  This is clearly established and needs to be remembered – Katie kidnapped Hunter and they disappeared together.

So now we leave the scenic vistas of Southern California and settle in to Henderson, NV to follow a new family around.  This time around it’s a family without a last name.  They never say their last name and imdb only lists them by their first names so they are the Nobody family I suppose.  They consist of the two parents, Doug and Holly, fiteen-year-old-dauther Alex and her boyfriend Ben, and their six-year-old son Wyatt.  They are all rather bland, cardboard people and we know that the second they appear onscreen they are victims.  The entirety of Paranormal Activity 4 is simply waiting for these people to die.

paranormal activity 2So is there anything interesting going on with this family?  No, not really.  It’s in a Nevada city that is neither Las Vegas nor Reno it’s bound to be dull times.  Dad works all the time but since whatever it is he does affords them such a large, nice house with all kinds of expensive things, nobody seems to mind.  Even when he misses Wyatt’s soccer game everyone just kind of shrugs and says “Well, that’s that.”  This is a town where the biggest thing happening is “Someone moved in across the street! – OMG! Scandal!”

It’s what’s going on next door that motivates the flimsy story, however, for the new people across the street are a single mother and her son odd son Robbie.  Alex and her boyfriend Ben have a run in with Odd Robbie when they find him in their backyard playhouse in the middle of the night.  Soon after, Robbie’s mother goes away to the hospital and the Nobody family agrees to watch after the strange boy for the next few days.  Then “things” slowly start to “happen.”

paranormal activity 3

The Things that Happen

paranormal activity 4As soon as Robbie comes to live under their roof is when paranormal activities begin to occur.  Like the previous films it starts with the usual small things like swinging chandeliers or strange noises in the night.  While Alex and Ben suspect something supernatural afoot, the parents don’t believe them.  Alex’s solution is to set cameras and computers all around the house to tape these things – which has been the same solution in ALL of these movies.  Always, the same, dumb-ass reasoning to create a found footage movie.  This unnamed demon has really become the most photogenic ghost across these four movies.When Alex shows this eerie footage to her parents they either don’t care (because there is literally NOTHING happening in those shots) or they say things like “You crazy kids and your crazy video editing.  Kids these days.  Wow!”

What really irritates me is that in all these Paranormal Activity films, this demon always starts really slow with this kiddie poltergeist shit.  Oh no, he slowly shut a door or made the chandelier sway a bit – Oh you are a scary demon </sarcasm>.   We know that this demon only wants to kill these people – that’s been the routine for the entire franchise.  So, why doesn’t he/she just kill them?  Sure it would make for a short film if on “Night #1” the demon just jumps out and slaughters everyone but it would make more sense.  Is there some sort of Demon Code of Conduct – an operations manual that states every murder must be preceded by two solid weeks of tiny, petty bullshit?  “On day 1 you can do no more than shut a door.  On day 2 you can do no more than movie a chair.  On day 3….”  If there is such a rationale it should be clearly established at some point.  Is it supposed to be some sort of assumed fact that this is how demons operate because if there is I’m not going to go browsing demonology websites just to validate it.  That’s YOUR job, movie.  Is it something available on the internet – then bring that up during the few scenes where we’re supposed to be entertained by watching these characters look up Demonology crap on the internet.   Explain to me WHY this demon can’t just kill them right off the bat.

And then there are the Kinect dots.

Get used to this shot - you'll see it A LOT. And don't strain your eyes looking for Paranormal activity here - there's none here and never is.

Get used to this shot – you’ll see it A LOT.
And don’t strain your eyes looking for Paranormal activity here – there’s none here and never is.

Ben reveals that the Kinect for their Xbox emits all these tracking dots that can ONLY be picked up through night vision.  It fills the whole damn house with these dots and, theoretically, makes it simpler to see what’s going on for this family that apparently NEVER turns their Xbox off (if you want to overheat the thing and get a Red Ring of Death – that’s certainly the way to fast track that).  Theoretically these track movements so you would expect to see an invisible demon/ghost moving through the dots.  You do see that – ONCE and for less than a second.  The rest of the time you see the living room at night through this haze of eye-burning green dots, nothing happens.  When things do happen in the living room it’s either when there are none of these tracking dots or it’s a person walking around that would have showed up whether you.  So what the hell is the point of these dots?  For one relatively minor jump scare at the beginning of the movie?  Then why keep these going for the whole time?  I hate the gross, green hue of night-vision being used in a movie and that’s only made further unwatchable with these dots that serve absolutely no purpose.

paranormal activity 6We have the unoriginal concept of this malicious demon starting off as the imaginary friend of a child – that shit’s been going on ever since The Exorcist.  Odd Robbie decides to teach Wyatt some demonology for kids.  “Hey, you want to see and talk to my imaginary friend, then you’ll have to draw these pagan symbols all over yourself while we hang out in the dark.”  Alex and Ben, ever they intrepid sleuths, immediately find these symbols online and learn all about whatever dark rites Robbie and Wyatt were trying to perform.  They learn that this demon’s goal is a 3 step process.  First the boy-child (their word, not mine) has to be marked.  Then the boy-child speaks to the demon, and then they, together, sacrifice a a virgin.

Wow, it would seem like the plot of the movie is laid out right there.  Odd Robbie has marked Wyatt and then, later, we see Wyatt talking to nothing amid the sea of Kinect dots.  All that’s left would be the virgin sacrifice of Alex, right?  WRONG!  You see, everything in the first half of this movie is the worst Red Herring of all – it’s not simply a false lead, it’s a bunch of bullshit.  All of that was wasting time because then we learn what’s really supposed to happen and I warn you… it’s stupid.

Who the Hell Are These Kids?

paranormal activity 7Robbie’s mom returns, out of nowhere, and it’s Katie, looking friendly and happier than ever.  So that would mean that this strange kid that can communicate with demons must be Hunter.  I mean, the last time we saw Katie several years ago she was leaving with a child so this is quite clearly Hunter.  However, the very next scene we see Wyatt talking to the demon and being told that his real name is Hunter.  Wait… what?  THEN we are told that Wyatt was adopted.  That is clearly something the writers just pulled out of their ass at the last moment.  This adoption does not come as a revelation to the characters, however, because all of them already know.  I think the fact that this character was adopted and that his adoption bears huge significance to the plot should have been mentioned about the time the character was introduced!

Wait… if Wyatt is Hunter then who the fuck is Robbie?  Well that’s something we’ll never know because we don’t see Robbie ever again in the movie.  How did Katie lose Hunter in the first place and then come to Nevada to track him down?  Did she misplace him somewhere and pick up Robbie by mistake?  Did she kidnap some random child to create an in with this family so she could steal Hunter back?  Well, she could have just not lost Hunter in the first place – I mean, Demon Katie seemed pretty passionate about getting and keeping Hunter at the end of Paranormal Activity 2, you’d think she wouldn’t just drop him off at some orphanage and then collect him later.  Unless the demon child needs to gestate with normal, non-Satan worshiping humans for a number of years for some reason.  Wait, then why did Robbie have to teach Wyatt how to summon and speak to this demon in the first place?  Shouldn’t this demon already be pretty aware of who Hunter is and just talk to him?  Why does one have to give permission to this demon when the demon has shown, through the course of 4 movies now, that it pretty much does whatever the hell it wants?  If Katie wanted to get Hunter back why did she wait two weeks instead of just breaking in and taking the kid – because that’s exactly what she does anyway.  Why couldn’t she do that right at the beginning?  The whole creation and capture of this kid has spanned years for a coven, by they way, as established by the third movie.  So why the hell would they even lose the kid in the first place?  And again, who the fuck is this Robbie kid?!  Did anyone even try to think this shit out when they were coming up with it?  Apparently not.

A Conclusion Two Weeks Too Late

paranormal activity 8So now that the audience has been made aware that Wyatt is actually Hunter it’s time for the demon to take him away, right?  Nope ,this demon is still stuck in “acting like a bullshit poltergeist” for a long while.  There are times when the audience is forced to believe that Wyatt/Hunter has been taken only to turn around and say “Nah, we’re just fuckin’ with ya, this movie’s still going.”  A good example of this would be the bathtub scene.  Wyatt is taking a bath and watching something on his computer AT THE SAME TIME!  Because, you know, that’s safe!  Does this family think, “well, he’s the adopted kid, so it’s okay for him to play with high voltage electrical devices in the water because we can always get another.”  Since the computers are also the cameras we have five minutes of this naked kid staring at us from the bathtub while Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 plays in the background.  Suddenly the demon pulls him under the water and we can safely believe that it’s the end.  The demon took him or the kid spontaneously drowned.  Nope, he pops back up a few minutes later.  I suppose the demon didn’t think the kid was ripe enough and decided to send him back into the movie for awhile?  Aw, come on, movie, stop teasing me like that.   Just when I thought it was through you keep on going.

paranormal activity 9Katie and the demon work as a team to eliminate this family.  The demon kills off the mom by slamming her about the living room while Katie goes upstairs and snaps Ben’s neck.  Then they hide the bodies… because demons need to cover their tracks.  And while this demon can kill on a whim and this petite Katie can snap a teenage boy’s neck with her bare hands, they still feel the need to needlessly drag out Alex’s death.  They lock her in the garage and start the car through supernatural means, forcing her to asphyxiate on the fumes.  Why?  Why do they have to make her death look like a suicide.  Alex manages to escape – only to be confronted at Katie’s house across the street by an ARMY OF WITCHES she didn’t see.  I’m not talking about just a handful of women that pop out of the shadow, this is literally a whole herd of women coming at her – something that would never go unnoticed no matter how dark it is.  It was that shot, of the witch army, when I totally lost it and could not stop laughing.

No questions at all were answered.  Still don’t know who the fuck this Robbie kid was.  I have no idea why this Hunter kid is important to some demon.  No idea how Katie lost him in the first place.  No idea why the demon screwed around with petty shit for two weeks when at anytime Katie, the demon and the witch army could have gone over there and taken the kid – which is exactly what they do at the end anyway.  This movie really does look like they made it up as they went along without caring at all about having a story that made one bit of goddamned sense.  “We want the chandelier to fall?” “Okay, but why?” “Because it’s cool.”  That seems to be the entire thought process behind this movie – “___ should happen because it’ll be cool.”

Seriously, how do you NOT notice this?

Seriously, how do you NOT notice this?

Paranormal Activity 4 is such inept storytelling that I refuse to believe it.  Nobody could allow that many plotholes in one movie.  It has to be a comedy, right?  I mean, I was laughing the whole time.  Nothing this ridiculous could ever have been meant to scare people.  Given how the trailer for Paranormal Activity 3 had nothing to do with the movie it was advertising – I’m pretty sure these filmmakers are trolling their audience at this point.  They’re probably still laughing and saying to each other “Holy shit!  These gullible people – they thought they were really going to see a horror movie?! LOL!”  I don’t regret watching Paranormal Activity 4 – its rare to see a movie that is this retarded, truly a marvel.  I’m now anticipating the fifth one in the series now just out of curiosity to see what horrible bullshit they come up with this time.

About The Author
Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats

Formerly known under the pseudonym of Alex Jowski.
Site owner, movie aficionado, and film school grad. Matthew Coats presents reviews, some written, some as vlogs, and some as weekly shows, for a variety of different movies and television shows. After years of struggling to get his own projects off the ground amidst the normal routine of living, Matthew Coats decided to create a site in order to share and promote movie reviews, video games and much much more from talented and original people all across the internet.

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