Plot: Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her family live in an affluent neighborhood and have all the luxuries they could want, but not all is well in this household. Her parents have gotten to the point of not even fighting anymore, just ignoring each other and going through the motions. She also has an adopted brother Wyatt, so she spends her time with him, or her friend Ben (Matt Shively), who wishes he could much further with Alex than just friends. After she discovers a strange boy in her treehouse, Alex is stunned when the child, named Robbie (Brady Allen), comes to stay with her family. His mother is having some issues, so Robbie needs a safe place to live for a few days. Once he arrives, odd things begin to happen around the house, from strange noises to unsettling feelings, but only Alex seems to pick up on the bad vibes. She and Ben set up the family’s laptops to record various rooms, for proof of these weird events and to try to find some answers that make sense. But will they uncover some dark presence at work, or just a troubled child causing some mischief?
Entertainment Value: After two sequels that took us back in time to flesh out the lore behind the series, Paranormal Activity 4 picks up after the original and shows us what Katie is up to now. This sequel pushes the active side of found footage horror more than the preceding installments, but also falls back on the same “Night 1” type of repetition the series was built on. So fans should appreciate the faithful approach, while those who didn’t love the previous movies might like this one a little better, since it takes that more active slant. This movie is perhaps best known for the scenes that use Microsoft’s Kinect, which adds a fresh element to the supernatural events, as well as some eerie, effective moments. The Kinect scenes are the highlight of the movie to me, as they’re unlike what you would see elsewhere and it puts a new twist on the same old found footage tropes, which was much needed in this series. Another positive here is Kathryn Newton, who gives us a fun character that we can root for, which again is rare for this series. She and Matt Shively have some fun interactions, including some awkward scenes when he tries to make his move and fails hard. I’d put Paranormal Activity 4 as my favorite in the series, as it is just a more active, fun experience than the previous ones, which relied on repetition above all else. This time we have some new twists, a couple of fun characters, and flashes of new lore. I still don’t think it will win over those who dislike found footage films, but for fans of the series and genre, well worth a spin.
No nakedness. Just some awkward attempts at affection from Ben, such as the cringe level scene when he puts his hand on Alex’s leg. No blood either, just jump scares and the series’ usual bag of tricks. A little more emphasis on the distorted faces this time around though, which don’t look all that impressive. But this series has never been about blood and guts, so the lack of gore is no surprise. The dialogue offers some bright spots, almost all involving conversations between Alex and Ben. The oblivious father has a couple fun moments as well, but the awkward couple steal the show in this department. Ben’s cringe attempts at seduction play off Alex’s naive, quirky persona quite well, so it provides some really fun exchanges. In terms of craziness, I do think the Kinect scenes add a fresh twist on the found footage aspect of the movie, but outside of that, this one sticks to the well worn road of the previous movies.
Overall Insanity: 1/10