All The Activity Has Led to This … Or One of the Next Three Movies …
I saw Sinister in theaters at the request of a friend. I didn’t really have any drive to see the movie myself without that request. Today’s movie is a different story. I’ve already reviewed the first three movies in this series and I’ve been overall pleased with the franchise so much that I was definitely going to find my way to the theater to see it, especially if I could get it in within my October Horrorthon. The thing that I’m getting worried about with this franchise is the danger of beating the dead horse. They’ve already put out four movies and they’ve already announced a fifth one. Is it going to be too much of a good thing? We’ll find out as I review Paranormal Activity 4, written by Christopher Landon and Chad Feehan, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, and starring Kathryn Newton, Aiden Lovekamp, Katie Featherston, Brady Allen, Matt Shively, Alexondra Lee, and Stephen Dunham.
When his mother gets sick, Robbie (Brady Allen) goes to stay with the family across the street, the Nelsons – mother Holly (Alexondra Lee), father Doug (Stephen Dunham), daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton), and son Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) – until his mother has returned. As soon as Robbie comes to the house, Alex and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) start to notice strange things happening in the house. They start off mostly as noises, talks of imaginary friends, and blurry figures caught on camera. Alex asks Ben to help her use a constantly running webchat on all of the computers in the house to watch for any strange occurrences.
Do I think Paranormal Activity is beating a dead horse? No. Not yet. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that I recommend this movie to everyone though. It seems that the series is a pretty polarizing one, and this movie will not change your opinion. It’s roughly as good as the rest of the series. It starts slow, is filled with logic loopholes, but it finishes strong. The ending of this movie was just rad. From Alex’s badass garage problem and solution to the cell phone in the bedroom and all the way up to the credits, I thought the ending was the best in the series so far. The after credit sequence was confusing and disappointing, but I don’t really count that amongst the movie proper.
The gaps in logic had become the majority of my concern through the movie. And I’m not just talking about the ghost stuff. The first one that struck me was Alex’s reaction to Robbie climbing into bed with her while she was asleep. Their immediate reaction to it was that it was really creepy? Come on! That little kid was like 7. I thought it was more cute than anything else until they started talking about it like it was a sexual thing. Kids don’t know anything about sex at that age! Next up was their super sweaty way to introduce the surveillance to this movie. They use everyone’s laptops, connect it to some sort of webchat, and record everything with that. First off, I don’t know of any program that lets you do that because it’s illegal to record someone without their consent. Second, how do these people not realize that a webchat program is open on one of the numerous occasions when they actually use their laptops? You wouldn’t see the window recording you if a webchat was open? And where are you saving these things? Do you know how much memory it would take to constantly record for an entire day? My 60 gigabyte camcorder can only record 14 hours. That’s around 120 GB for one day, and you bitches were recording that nonstop for at least a week. I know there are laptops with hard drives in the terabyte range, but we are straining credulity here! Plus, you can access that stuff all from one computer, so I guess the Cloud is being super generous in giving you a few terabytes of storage space when they only give the rest of us 5 gigabytes. Am I the only one nerdy enough to have been focusing on this the entire movie? Apparently Alex isn’t because she would’ve been able to show her parents her video evidence if she would just remember the simple instructions her boyfriend gave her to access their 100 terabyte Cloud storage. How about the fact that the mom is so ballah that she keeps a laptop in the kitchen that she only uses for recipes? They put those into books that you can get for about 1,000 dollars less than any MacBook. That’s financially irresponsible, but she is also parentally irresponsible because she lets her son take his laptop in the bathroom while he’s taking a bath because who’s ever seen someone drop something electrical in a bathtub? And how does the ghost/demon thing manage to shut off the movie on the laptop without shutting off the camera? If the mother fucker can point and click on a laptop, and he doesn’t like them filming him, then he could certainly close all the webchats and save the family thousands of dollars in online storage! Okay, most of these things were technology-based gripes, but they really got on my nerves as I was watching the movie. It wasn’t until after the movie that the MST3K mantra of, “If you’re wondering how he eats and breaths and other science facts, just repeat to yourself, ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax’,” came to my mind.
I came to realize while watching this movie that I was constantly looking around each set piece to see which ghostly gimmicks they were setting up. And it did not seem that hard to predict either. When I saw the sandbox at the bottom of the fort in the backyard, I knew something would eventually show up in them. I thought it would be footprints. It wasn’t, but I was pretty close. There were a couple of places where I thought they would do something but they didn’t, like the bead closet door. I don’t consider that me being wrong as much as their lack of imagination. They did show some imagination in that they incorporated the Kinect into this movie, but I thought of a problem with that as well. The big problem with using the Kinect with an infrared camera is that it seems like total bullshit that the Kinect works by spraying the room with dots that you can’t see with the naked eye. I own a Kinect and I was certain that it was bullshit. That’s why I took it upon myself to find out if it was real or not … and it is! I couldn’t take a very good picture of it because I was just using a pair of cheap infrared goggles that came with Modern Warfare 2 and I had to try to fit my camera into one of the lenses to take a picture, but that shit is real! The problem comes when most people aren’t able to test this for themselves because they don’t own a Kinect, infrared goggles, or both, and you need both to be able to find out for yourself. But it was an interesting idea, and they used it pretty well throughout the movie. The only real problem I had with it is that I don’t know of an Xbox that you could leave on constantly that wouldn’t have burnt itself out already. I also got to wondering about the next movie’s filming techniques. They’ve done a regular video camera (set up specifically for paranormal occurrences), they did security cameras, they did webcams, and they even did cameras duct taped to an oscillating fan. I wonder what their big idea is for their next movie. They seem to feel the need to change filming styles with each movie, so what do they have left? My guess? A prequel from way before the events of PA3, filmed with a hand-cranked camera and looking like the Zapruder film. Let’s see if we can get an audience to watch that for an hour and a half! But the webcam style of this worked out okay beyond the silliness of all of the strategically placed computers working like a surveillance system. There was one part where Alex was carrying her laptop that was almost reminiscent of the Blair Witch, so take that for what it’s worth. There was one part that got on my nerves though. I won’t spoil anything, but it involves someone’s feet being seen from the kitchen when they’re in the living room. The problem with it is that we know there’s a camera in the living room with a better angle on the scene. If we’re to believe that someone found all of this footage and edited it together to show the world, then I assume they would’ve shown us a better camera angle instead of trying to get artsy with it.
I can’t generally think of that much to say about the performances in a movie like this. Most of what’s required of them is to scream and be scared a lot. Everyone in this movie does that well. Kathryn Newton does scared well, and I get the feeling that three years from now I’ll be saying that she’s hot. Matt Shively’s character made me mad, but only because of how the Paranormal Activity movies portray young males. Every male teen is a skeevy perv in these movies. The boyfriend in PA2 tried to turn everything into sex and Matt Shively does that in this movie, but thankfully it’s only in the early bits. He chills out after that. I was able to have conversations with women that I didn’t try to turn into sex when I was that age! I guess it’s statistically accurate though. Plus, it may have done Alex a favor. When he jokes with her that taking her virginity would obviously make her less of an interest for the cult that needs a virgin, that’s just good logic. You’re gonna lose it eventually, but only if you live long enough for it! Katie Featherston was back in this movie, and she does what she’s done in the other movies again, and it still works for me. Plus, she seems to be losing weight, and I actually found her attractive in parts of this movie. I didn’t think too much of the two boys in the movie. They did fine, but didn’t do much. There was one part where Alex was berating Wyatt for not telling her that he was going to wander across the street, saying that he could’ve been hit by a car or kidnapped, and his argument was, “We live in a good neighborhood!” I liked that logic. The parents got on my nerves too. Whenever the kids are experiencing the stuff in this franchise, the parents completely disregard anything they say. Hell, the dad in this movie had a knife fall from the sky and hit the counter in front of him, but they never showed anything of him getting on board with what the daughter was talking about.
I guess what I’m saying is that these movies are beginning to lose me, but have not lost me yet. The story of the movie was mostly irrelevant to me, leaving me to spend my time picking out loopholes that showed a lack of understanding of the technology they were using, as well as seeing where gimmicks would show up in the various rooms, but the movie has enough startles to keep me interested throughout. Plus, this movie has the best ending in the series. I would say Paranormal Activity 4 is probably near the middle of the franchise in quality. If you like the series, then this is worth a watch. If you don’t like the series, don’t bother because it’s not good enough to change your mind. Paranormal Activity 4 gets “Not quite as awesome as a 100 terabyte Cloud storage, but good enough” out of “He does not like you.”
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Not as scary as the last three entries in the series, but still a bit creepy at times and still has some fun with itself. However, I do wish that they gave it some more thought in how cool and original they wanted the scares to be. Good review Robert.
Your gripes about the tech were funny. It’s actually completely possible to record someone else’s webcam during a video chat without their knowledge from your computer. It’s also possible to set up a program to make the webcam record in the background so no one knows it’s on, which is what the boyfriend did. It’s also possible to access files on other computers remotely, so they might not have been using a cloud service. Lastly, the front facing cameras on most devices are a mere 1 to 3 megapixels, so recording it all wouldn’t take nearly as much space as video camera recordings. Thus the unrealistic part is theater quality video coming from laptops and phones, haha.
Well fuck me then. I’m not going to fix what I said though. I’m far too lazy to pursue accuracy.