Paranormal Activity 4

For the first time, the formula that has created one of the best supernatural horror film series we’ve witnessed has been exhausted. The formula, a perfect mix of home videos, floating objects, and dark figures, is what fueled the “Paranormal Activity” phenomena that we love so much. While “Paranormal Activity 4” stays true to the components of this formula, providing a few hair raising moments, they are greatly exaggerated and well…reaching.

The series, entirely viewed through “found footage” from home videos places the viewer in the front seat, if not in the film itself. The progression of the technology used to record these home videos is quite beautiful. Beginning with a bulky VHS camcorder in the prequel (PA3), then 2004 Sony HDR-FX1 in PA1 and 2, PA4 does not disappoint us in staying with this tradition. Alex owns a Mac book Pro that she chats with her boyfriend Ben on when she’s not calling him on her iPhone. Her mother also owns a MacBook Pro that she solely uses for recipes. Even the youngest of the family, Alex’s brother Wyatt owns a MacBook just for gaming. The family also owns an Xbox that aids in capturing the creepy footage of supernatural forces about the house. While the update in technology is great, the use of so many apple brand items makes the film seem like more of a forceful advertisement than an authentic progression.

Anticipation has to be the greatest weapon of this series because of the way scenes are set up and how camera angles are just right for a scare. But viewers may have adapted to this because the film doesn’t provide much anticipation and is replaced with expectation. In one scene, Alex is lying in her bed sleep and her door is left cracked. After a few seconds of silence and the sounds of her snores we can expect that her door will crack and there will be something or someone standing in the doorway. Like clockwork, the door cracks seconds later and there stands the dark figure of a child. This scene with slight variations is replicated all throughout the film, leaving viewers lacking that rush of anticipation and thirsting for more.

Moving objects without any assistance has to be the magic of the Paranormal Activity series. A floating pan. A door flung open. Bed covers removing themselves from our characters. Although we’ve seen it 1,000 times in this group of supernatural flicks, we are still amazed and stare with “Oooos” and “Awws.” With our familiarity with this tradition, we should expect to see a new twist of some sort on this mechanism in “Paranormal Activity 4.” We don’t. With a crashing pot, a bouncing basketball down the stairs, and a floating knife, we are unmoved and unimpressed.

If you are expecting a visual more frightening than the preceding ones in this series then you will be slightly disappointed. While the film does offer a jolting ending, it is all but 45 seconds and will leave you with more unanswered questions, prompting another addition in this procession. We can only hope that “Paranormal Activity 5,” if produced, will satisfy our abandoned palates.

Grade C+

Release Date: Oct. 19, 2012

Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

MPAA rating: R