Combustible Celluloid
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With: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovekamp, Alexondra Lee, Stephen Dunham
Written by: Zack Estrin, Christopher B. Landon
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence/terror
Running Time: 88
Date: 10/16/2012

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Lack of 'Activity'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman -- who came up with some inspired ideas for Paranormal Activity 3 as well as making the unsettling Catfish -- can't seem to find a reason for Paranormal Activity 4 to exist. 

At the end of Paranormal Activity 2, Katie (Katie Featherston) and her young nephew Hunter disappeared. Now we catch up with a new family, a couple with a teen daughter, Alex (Kathryn Newton) and an adopted boy, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). A strange neighbor boy, Robbie (Brady Allen) begins showing up and hanging around with Wyatt. Peculiar things start to happen, and Robbie appears to be able to see and speak to some kind of mysterious imaginary friend. Alex's friend Ben (Matt Shively) rigs up the family's computers to record everything. Meanwhile, Alex meets Robbie's adopted mother Katie in the house across the street. What's going on here, and how is it connected to Katie's sinister past?

The story here, hinged on one big twist, makes absolutely no sense, and whatever sympathy we used to have for the Katie character is now gone. Worst of all, the scares have also grown lazy. The nighttime sequences, usually reserved for the big stuff, are now tepid and disappointing, and the daytime sequences, usually reserved for rest periods, are now filled with silly jump-shock stuff, often having nothing to do with the paranormal (i.e., a cat jumping into the frame). Even the surveillance footage is lazily explained here, whereas there was always a reason for it in the previous films. 

The only interesting factor is that the film continues its exploration of "broken," and/or non-traditional family units. But sadly, that's not enough to recommend this tired sequel.
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