It has been five years since Katie (Katie Featherston) murdered her sister and disappeared with her infant nephew, Hunter, in tow. Now, a new family is about to fall prey to nighttime terrors. A mysterious accident next door leads to teenage Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her family becoming the temporary guardians of Robbie (Brady Allen), a very creepy neighbor boy. Cameras installed throughout Alex’s home capture the sinister events that unfold after Robbie’s arrival.
Sometimes, a movie franchise can only go up and the films get increasingly better the longer the series continues. One of the biggest examples of this happening is with The Lord of the Rings series. Fellowship of the Ring was great, The Two Towers was even better, and The Return of the King was about as perfect a conclusion you can get in a trilogy. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is like that too.
The initial few entries in that universe were good, but now that we have movies like Avengers: Endgame and Black Panther, it’s genuinely baffling to look back and think about the fact that we actually got an Incredible Hulk and Iron Man movie.
However, some franchises do not improve with each passing entry, but rather, they get worse. Unfortunately, Paranormal Activity is one of the biggest examples of a franchise not having any fresh ideas, but Hollywood keeps producing them because they make a ton of money at the box office.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Paranormal Activity 4 is dreadful in every sense of the word. Despite the fact that it’s only eighty-six minutes long, it never feels as short as it actually is. For some reason, this also just so happens to be the most uneventful film in the franchise thus far. During the entire first act, we get to see how the Nelson family lives their day-to-day lives, and it’s there to establish characters and make us feel sympathy for this perfectly normal, innocent family when things eventually start to hit the fan. The problem is that things don’t really start to hit the fan until the last thirty minutes, and at that point, you just don’t care anymore and you’ll be wanting to turn the movie off.
I do have to say though, Kathryn Newton delivers a truly great performance as the lead character Alex Nelson. Not only is she the most likable character in the franchise to date, but she is also the smartest. In the other Paranormal Activity films, characters make incredibly stupid decisions that will make you hate them instantly. You’ll be screaming at the screen “Why would you go in there?!” but not with Alex. She is right on the same page as the audience and rarely makes a poor decision in the film.
But it’s Newton’s layered and emotional performance that really makes the character stand out as the best in the franchise. With her performance here, Newton proves herself to be one of the best and most underrated actresses working today. Unfortunately, though, Newton’s excellent performance is not enough to save the fourth installment in this tired franchise from being anything less than an unmemorable cinematic nightmare.
Paranormal Activity 4 may offer an excellent performance from Kathryn Newton, but it suffers from an uneventful plot, cheap scares, and bland writing.
Overall Grade: D
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence/terror
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: October 19, 2012
Running Time: 87 minutes