We are now four films deep into the Paranormal Activity series, and each one has contributed something to the ghost story in a very systematic fashion. Aside from the third movie, which in my opinion explained the most, the first and second ones have raised more questions than answers. Continuing along that precedent, Paranormal Activity 4 gave suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat entertainment, but left me hungry for more.
Here’s a little briefing on what we’ve seen so far coming into the fourth installment. In Paranormal Activity 2, Katie murdered her sister, Kristi, and Kristi’s husband, Dan, and then kidnapped their baby boy, Hunter. In Paranormal Activity 3, I think I speak for everyone when I say that we thought we were going to see what happened immediately following the events of No. 2. To our surprise, the series went backwards, as the third film was a prequel to the very first one. This little hiccup in time was bittersweet, because we’re dying to know what happened to Katie and Hunter, yet, in the third, we see exactly how the demon was brought into the family, and that Kristi and Katie’s grandmother was (presumably) the leader in a coven of witches. So now we have full knowledge as to how and why everything is happening to this particular family, and the stage is set for Paranormal Activity 4 to show us where Katie and Hunter have ended up.
Five years after, Katie disappears with Hunter, this movie focuses on 15-year-old Alex, her mom, dad and younger brother Wyatt, who live in a typical, quiet, suburban neighborhood. The people living across the street are odd, and not far in, emergency personnel are called to the neighbor’s home, which leaves the mother in the hospital and her son, Robbie, staying with Alex’s family.
What I liked about this movie was that the “paranormal activities” begin rather quickly, and there’s not a lot of boring content like the beginnings of the others. As soon as Robbie starts staying with the family, Alex begins noticing strange things happening. The strange events are still as creepy as ever with floating knives, drowning children, falling chandeliers, self-starting cars and garage doors and then the creepy little boy Robbie. An interview with the directors says that if you pay close attention to what he does throughout the movie, his purpose will become clear. I remember a lot of what he did and still have a lot of questions regarding his purpose and origins, but in this franchise you have to learn that with answers comes confusion.
In each of these movies the directors find ways to keep us intrigued with different methods of the characters filming the events on their own, without a legitimate camera crew. The first and third were filmed with handheld cameras, the second is documented with cameras mounted around the house for security purposes, and this one uses the web cams of three laptops in different rooms around the house, as well as two hidden handheld cameras. The web cam idea is fresh and fitting for the technology-driven era we now live in, and most of the action is caught on Alex’s laptop during chats with her boyfriend, Ben.
One other element that stayed with the tech-savvy idea was the implementation of an Xbox 360 Kinect. While watching Robbie and Wyatt playing, Ben shows everyone that when you turn off the lights and look through the camera when it’s on night vision mode you can see all the green lasers around the room that track the movements of whoever is playing. This proves to be a key part of the movie and shows things that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
Something I noticed about the characters is that their respective roles and names are eerily alike. Alex is the daughter in this one; Ali is the daughter in PA2. Ben is the boyfriend here and Brad is the boyfriend of Ali in PA2. Doug is Alex’s dad in PA4, while Dan is Ali’s dad in PA2. I also find it strange that Kristi and Katie have similar names, but Katie kills Kristi. This same-name phenomenon could just be me over thinking a coincidence in character creation, but it could prove to be something important.
If you think the idea of these movies is a joke, that’s fine. For those of us who have been watching since the beginning, we are stuck in an experience very similar to the show Lost and Saw series. What I mean by that you never really know what you’re going to get out of the next part, and once you see it, you only want to know more.
Also, make sure you stay past the end of the credits because there is a hidden scene that my friends and I missed that could be of help with some answers. For the religious fans of the franchise, I recommend seeing this one to keep the suspense of the story building and moving forward so that, come Paranormal Activity 5, which has already been confirmed, you’ll still be in the loop. Six out of 10.