Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 4 Scares the Easily Spooked, Bores the Easily Irritated

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.


  • Hunter

    Thank you for reviewing Paranormal Activity 4, Jason. A few of my coworkers from DISH and I have started a little horror club, and we decided that we were going to go check out Paranormal 4 on Saturday. We have a new girl that wants to join the club, but she hasn’t seen many horror movies. We needed to get her caught up on all of the previous Paranormal Activity, so I had the whole group over for a marathon Friday night where we streamed the first three flicks from my Hopper DVR. She handled those movies pretty well, but after seeing number 4 on Saturday I thought she was going to faint. It was kind of awesome. As for the movie, it is more of the same, but that’s what makes it such a great Halloween series.

  • I hate being startled as well. It sucks. I think that when it comes to these paranormal activity movies, the writers and directors are just lazy. It just takes too much energy to make a movie of real quality. As long as the money is there, they wont give a crap.