Paranormal Activity 4: Rated “R” (95 Minutes)
Starring: Katie Featherston, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovekamp, Matt Shively, Kathryn Newton
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
OK kids, this is it, the wrap-up of the story that could have been told in all of 15 minutes had the film actually been written. Anyway, it is now 2011, some five years after Katie killed her boyfriend Micah, her sister Kristi, her husband Daniel, and took their baby, Hunter (see, we just wrapped up the first three films in like one sentence). This time around the story focuses on a very cute teen Alex (Newton) and her mom (Alexondra Lee), experiencing “weird stuff” in their house ever since the new neighbors moved in across the street.
Yep, you guessed it, this isn’t so much of an actual movie as it is a series of long static camera shots followed by jumpy camera movements as people run with a camera while (apparently) looking through the viewfinder. (Seriously, try it sometime, Don’t look down, but straight ahead through the viewfinder while running, and then let us know how many steps you are able to take before tripping over something, falling flat on your face, and braking something important — either you or the camera). Anyway, here’s what is going on, the kid, Hunter (now called Robbie (Allen) and his mom Katie (Featherston) live across the street.
Only something happens to Katie (ambulance comes in the middle of the night to take her away), and Robbie comes to live with Alex’s family (apparently no one ever heard of Social Services (including the screenwriter) as no one even brings the topic up, so while the subject could have been dealt with in a single line of dialogue, it is just left hanging there in the air like the smell of bad fish). So, now some “slightly weird” things start to happen, causing Alex and her boyfriend, Ben (Shively) rig all the computers in the house so that they will endlessly record everything that happens (clearly the computers all have massive hard drives, big fat pipes and bandwidth like pigs).
Soon enough “slightly weird” becomes “Seriously dudes WTF are you still doing living in that house!?!” But quantum leaps in logic and connecting all the dots are so clearly not this series’ long suit. Eventually Robbie & Alex’s little brother, Wyatt (Lovekamp) become bestest buddies and both start doing weird crap. Eventually Robbie disappears and Wyatt begins answering to Hunter (which is when these folks should have know that it was really time to head for the hills). Needless to say, we go precisely where we’ve been going since the start of all of this badly-filmed nonsense, only it takes another 95 minutes and then we’re supposed to be frightened.
We will, however, say this. This is the best of the bunch (which is still not saying much), but the film makers finely got not only a plausible way to track everyone’s movements, but finally figured out how to not make the process so distressing so as to make you want to throw popcorn at the screen, leave the theater, and demand your money back. MINOR SPOILER ALERT In the trailer there is a particularly spooky scene where Robbie/Hunter appears in Alex’s driveway then someone seems to come in the house, and (as Alex is video-chatting with Ben) someone comes into the room behind her. Don’t look for that scene in the movie, as it never appears, something else entirely happens. None of it is ever explained.
In the final analysis, even though Kathryn Newton is wicked-cute, has a beautiful face (which is always stuck in her monitor), and very expressive eyes, she simply can’t save this unholy mess.
Don’t go see this film.
Robert J. Sodaro has been writing professionally for over 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as here and elsewhere on the web.