Review: Paranormal Activity 4

daniel cohen makes you feel the burn…

Plot: When a small town suburban family takes in their neighbor’s odd kid (Brady Allen) for a few days, teenager Alex (Kathryn Newton) starts filming the rooms in her house to see what he does as strange events begin taking place that may be connected to incidents that happened five years earlier in 2006.

Let me start off by saying I have not seen the previous films. But I’m just going to rip the band-aid right off — this is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in the last five years. This is one of those movie experiences that was just painful to sit through. I’ve never walked out of a movie, and this tested my resolve several times. I absolutely loathe this film.

The single biggest problem with this film (and believe me, there are several), is that it may be the most boring movie ever filmed. What I’m about to say is not an exaggeration or me trying to be funny. If you put me under a lie detector test, I would pass with flying colors as I make the following statement: staring at a wall for 90 minutes would have been more entertaining than watching this movie. If someone gave me an option of sitting on a chair and looking at a wall for 90 minutes, I would prefer it to watching this movie again. Again…this isn’t a joke. It’s the honest truth.

I’ll give you that the first 10-15 minutes aren’t bad. There’s decent banter between the teenage daughter Alex and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively). But once they start getting into the “story,” this movie loses all sense of entertainment value. The movie is literally people walking around a house not saying anything, turning on the TV, 5 year olds running around the living room, and of course, the most riveting scene of all, watching teenagers text. I’m not kidding. There’s about two minutes of watching someone text on their phone. Occasionally, you might see a speck of dust in the background that floats around introducing some bull shit mystery. This is the movie. Are you kidding me? It disgusts me that this is what qualifies as filmmaking.

And even when something does “happen,” it’s ridiculously predictable. And this is coming from someone who’s never seen a previous Paranormal Activity movie. I was able to predict everything just by reading the Wikipedia plot summaries 20 minutes before the film started. You know what I read about in these articles: Chandeliers swinging back and forth, furniture moving, and dumb triangle symbols. Guess what happens in this movie? Chandeliers swinging, furniture moving, and dumb triangle symbols. And there is no story progression whatsoever. It’s 85 minutes of people walking around a house, and then in the last five minutes they throw in a bunch of random shock images with no lead up…it’s just random bull shit scares that have nothing to do with anything that occurred in the course of the film. Just when you get the most interesting image of the film, it’s on screen for maybe 1 second, and then the film cuts to black.

The tagline for the film is “All the activity has led to this.” Led to what!? People walking around a house! This movie is a downright scam. It reminds me of the scene in Wayne’s World where Noah of Noah’s Arcade is talking about how kids keep playing the same video game where you can’t get to the next level, but kids keep pumping in quarters. But it sets up the scam for Paranormal Activity 5 beautifully. It gives you crap for 99.9% of the film, but leaves you with a split second image that will make you want to see the next one. You’ll say to yourself, ‘Wow, I bet in the next one, we’ll see all the cool shit we’ve been waiting for.’ I got news for you kids…there is no next level. I just hope the director (Henry Joost) and the “Writers” feel somewhat guilty about bamboozling audiences like this. If that’s the case, I can at least sleep a little better at night.

So do I have anything nice to say about this movie? Brady Allen plays the creepy kid Robbie, the neighbor next door. He’s pretty good in it, and whenever he delivered dialogue, I was somewhat intrigued. But even his story gets completely tossed aside and ends up meaning absolutely nothing because the film wants to throw in a random twist at the end. They make a huge point of this kid throughout the whole movie, but ultimately, he ends up meaning jack shit. It’s amazing that the movie manages to screw up the one positive element it has going for it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the main gimmick of the film, and why this whole series is popular to begin with, and that is the found footage style filmmaking. I admit, I hate this genre to begin with. It’s a cheap trick that tries to pass as being really clever. Now it has worked before. For example, I loved Chronicle earlier this year. The reason it works in that film though is because the movie gives us a great reason for why it’s being used — it’s a huge character trait for one of the characters. But in this movie, it’s total garbage. And I’m not one to nit-pick something like this, but there are times where Alex has the camera while she’s running from danger…why are you still filming? Wouldn’t it be easier to run if you dropped the camera? And there’s another scene where she goes to the neighbor’s house and is just randomly filming. The movie doesn’t even bother to give us an excuse as to why this is happening. It could care less.

The only reason I’m not giving this movie below a ‘2’ is because I was able to find a couple positives. Like I said, I never saw the previous Paranormal Activity films, and maybe they’re better. All I can do is review this one. And when looking at this film, I can’t help but think of all the great filmmakers who have made movies as I watch their craft devolve into this horrid piece of boring trash. There is no story whatsoever. As I’ve said before, this movie is watching people walk around a house. I know a lot of critics out there say that superhero movies and big budget action extravaganzas are ruining film, and that Hollywood is all adaptations with no more original ideas. But I say that movies like Paranormal Activity 4 are the true disease of Hollywood…these are the dangerous movies. At least movies like Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, and even the Twilight films have people actually doing things, and a story that goes from point A to point B. Sure, they aren’t always told very well, but at least you’re watching something. Paranormal Activity 4 is watching nothing.

Rating: 2 out of 10 (A Complete and Utter Disaster)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.