Haunted houses (the sort found at carnivals or fairs) don’t scare me. They just piss me off. You wander through the dark as hidden people jump out at you, and you’re startled for a fraction of a second, sure, but not frightened. I hate being startled.
Paranormal Activity 4 is no more sophisticated than the typical Halloween attraction, and it’s got few tricks that you haven’t seen before — including in the previous three installments of this movie series. Once again the story is crafted from supposedly “found footage” of home video cameras, security cameras, and webcams that details a supernatural menace terrorizing a suburban family.
Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) are freaked out by a young neighbor, Robbie (Brady Allen), who comes to stay with her family after his own mother ends up in the hospital. Robbie likes to wander the neighborhood in the dark and seems to be talking to some invisible presence. Alex and Ben rig the webcams on computers throughout the house to record the strange activity — noises and shadows, etc. — that seems to be happening at night.
From there the movie’s scenes are contrived setups for a series of simple tricks that might catch you off-guard: people (including SMU grad Katie Featherston, reprising her role as a possessed woman) appearing unexpectedly behind others, objects (or the family cat) suddenly knocking in the camera, etc. I jumped in my seat at the first couple, but soon tired of the effect. I felt nothing in later scenes when a chandelier nearly falls on one character or when another is mysteriously lifted into the air while she sleeps.
It builds to a final climactic horror sequence that may frighten some people, but which I found a relatively nonsensical cheat.