The phrase “flogging a dead horse” is one that’s fairly often bandied about when it comes to movies these days. It certainly applies to the fourth addition to the Paranormal Activity franchise, which hit cinemas this week.
Paranormal Activity 4 is set soon after the events of Paranormal Activity 2. I have to admit that, even as a fan of the series, I found it quite difficult to re-immerse myself in what has now become something of a convoluted storyline. Essentially, the fourth film takes up where the second one left off. Katie, the main protagonist of the first film, has settled down in Nevada several years after abducting her nephew and killing her sister. She moves into a house opposite a typical suburban couple, whose 15 year old daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) conveniently has a penchant for filming everyday events around the house. Hunter, Katie’s abductee, now goes by the name of Robbie, and is roughly the same age as Alex’s younger brother Wyatt. When Katie ostensibly falls ill and is admitted to hospital, Alex’s mother does the neighbourly thing and offers to take care of Robbie pending his mother’s recovery. Wyatt and Robbie immediately become close friends, which leads to the advent of strange activity about the household.
Immediately, the most irritating things about Paranormal Activity 4 are the main characters. In lieu of the usual sceptical adult couple, we get Alex and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively); two obnoxious 15 year olds who spend their days Skyping, playing their X-Box, and using all the latest Apple gadgets to keep in touch and film ghostly happenings in their house. (On a side note: I’m really starting to get fed up with the Apple product placement in movies today. Taken 2 was equally shameless with its flaunting of iPads, Macbooks and iPhones. It’s really distracting and completely contrived, but I digress.) As Hunter’s influence on Wyatt becomes more pronounced, the young boy becomes distant, and behaves ever more strangely as the film progresses. He seems drawn to Katie’s house across the street, much to the alarm of his intuitive older sister.
There really isn’t a whole lot more I can say about the plot without giving something away. Nothing much really happens between the beginning and the end aside from a few half-hearted scare attempts and some transparent dialogue geared toward creating accessible characters. Ordinarily, I can enjoy even a fairly average movie on the first viewing, but Paranormal Activity 4 was almost insultingly boring. More disturbing than anything this movie had to offer is the news that a Paranormal Activity 5 has been confirmed for Halloween 2013. Given that it has cost just under $14.15 million to produce a franchise worth $576 million this is hardly surprising; one can only hope that future instalments to the series might stay a little more true to its roots, and perhaps deliver a fresh take on the titular paranormal activity.