There is no real reason that "Paranormal Activity 4" should even exist. There's a problem and we're going to talk about it because I am part of the problem. You probably are, too. But let's talk about the good stuff first.
Playing teenager Alex, Kathryn Newton gives us the best close-up scared face since Heather Donahue in the "Blair Witch Project." Instead of a Hi-8 camera, we see her through a laptop's webcam. For this fourth installment of the franchise, webcams are the preferred mode of recording the activities in the home.
Home, this time, is not Carlsbad, California, as the previous films have been. The action moves to Henderson, Nevada, and is five years after the end of the first two films (part three, you may recall, was a prequel). No one has seen Kathy and the wee baby Hunter since they disappeared and everyone in their homes were killed. Alex, her brother Wyatt, and their distant parents live across the street from a weird lady who we don't see for half the film and her weird kid Robbie. Robbie comes to stay with Alex's family when his mother is taken to the hospital in the middle of the night. That is when the action begins.
The action, just like in the previous films, is slow to build. This franchise has done a great job of tension building. We never know what is going to happen or when (until the end). The use the various recording technologies to their greatest effect. This time around, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman combined a night vision camera with an Xbox Kinect to produce one of the bets effects in the entire franchise.
Joost, Shulman and screenwriter Christopher Landon also went back in time for a couple nice horror homages. Who can forget the child's ball bouncing down the stairs in "The Changling" or little Danny Torrance cruising his Big Wheel through the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining"? These folks haven't forgotten.
There is a fairly large plot hole that I can't explain. If you see the movie and pick up on it, let me know and we can talk about it.
Now, the big problem I mentioned earlier. We are still inundated with remakes and sequels. Horror bloggers such as myself spent too much time griping about how we want something original instead of a rehash or another needless sequel. But we keep going to these movies. I could have gone to "Hotel Transylvania" or "ParaNorman," but instead I went to "Frankenweenie." I could have gone to "Seven Psychopaths," "Looper," or "Sinister," but I chose to use my meager budget to see "Paranormal Activity 4." I enjoyed the movie and someone always cries, but until I, and all of you, stand up and decide not to see an unrequired sequel or unnecessary remake, people will keep making them. It's not their fault, it's ours. The filmmakers are just doing their jobs: keeping us entertained and making money. Why did the "Saw" franchise end? Because it stopped making money. WE stopped going (and started going to "Paranormal Activity).
Because of this, I'm torn in my recommendation. I had a good time watching this movie and it's worth seeing. But I also crave original content and want you to do the same. As such, I am going to give this movie an in-between rating.
THREAT LEVEL: YELLOW. It's a fun fright fest, but we need something to take over next Halloween.
"Paranormal Activity 4" is in theaters now.