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Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/29/2013

All Ratings out of


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/31/2013

When a sequel or the newest chapter in a series is being released, it's become trendy for theaters to have film festivals showing the previous entries in order to get the audience excited about the new film and to remind them of what had happened before. I typically have no interest in this practice, as I trust myself to remember the earlier movies. (Although, I really should have had a screening of the original trilogy before tackling The Bourne Legacy. Live and learn.) However, in anticipation of Paranormal Activity 4, I decided to go back and watch the first three films for two reasons. First of all, I've only seen them each one time, so I wanted to remind myself of what had occurred, as they easily blend together. Secondly, I remembered that the movies actually work well as a series, as the stories all build on one another. It was this second factor which gave me high hopes for Paranormal Activity 4 -- hopes which were quickly dashed.

Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 took place in 2006, while Paranormal Activity 3 was set in 1988. Paranormal Activity 4 jumps ahead to 2011, five years removed from the occurrences of the first two movies. Also, the action has moved to Henderson, Nevada. There we meet Alex (Kathryn Newton), a typical teenaged girl who likes to hang out with her friend, Ben (Matt Shively), although it's clear that Ben wants to be more than friends. Alex lives with her parents -- Doug (Stephen Dunham) and Holly (Alexondra Lee) and her brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). When a new family moves in across the street, Alex notices a boy standing by himself in various places. One night, sirens are heard at the house, and the next day, Holly announces that the boy, Robbie (Brady Allen), will be staying with them while his mom is in the hospital. Not long afterwards, Alex begins to hear strange noises in the house and she notes that Robbie wanders the house at night. Ben helps to turn all of the laptops in the house into surveillance cameras (is that real?), and soon he and Alex begin to see strange shapes in the house. Has Robbie brought something evil with him?

When Paranormal Activity arrived in theaters in 2009, its success (bolstered by an ingenious grass-roots internet campaign) seemed like a one-shot fluke. Still, it wasn't entirely surprising when a sequel arrived in 2010. What was surprising was the crafty way in which the filmmakers were able to link the two films as opposed to it being a throw-away sequel. This trend continued in Paranormal Activity 3 where we learned more about Katie and her sister and how they had been tormented by demons for years. At the outset of Paranormal Activity 4, it appears to be what we thought Paranormal Activity 2 was going to be, as we are introduced to a new family. However, the movie slowly begins to bring in elements from the first three chapters in the series.

However, creating a connection to the earlier films does not mean that Paranormal Activity 4 will be on par with them. I should have known that I was in trouble when the first act of the movie didn't try to offer any explanation as to why what we were seeing was being filmed. (The other movies threw in some reason, no matter how corny.) From there, the problems with this movie only escalate, but here's the bottom line -- nothing truly interesting or significant happens in Paranormal Activity 4. The first three films built this story and mythos and the latest entry drops the ball completely. The majority of the film offers very little explanation as to what is happening and it truly seems disconnected from the series. It's only during the final act that some information is divulged and it's only during the last two minutes of the movie that anything actually new happens.

Thus we are left with a movie which feels utterly pointless and the audience can't help but feel that they've truly been suckered this time. What's worse, one can tell that the movie thinks that it's doing a good job by offering us reminders from the early films, such as someone being dragged out of bed, objects falling from the ceiling, and shadowy figures moving through rooms. The first three films aren't great works of art, but each contains at least one scene which makes you jump or makes your skin crawl. We get nothing like that here, as Paranormal Activity 4 plays more like a family drama than a horror film. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who showed such creativity in Paranormal Activity 3, return to the series, but show that they may have exhausted all of their new ideas on the last movie. Of course, the script by Chad Feehan & Christopher Landon doesn't give them much to work with.

To say that Paranormal Activity 4 is a disappointment would be a grand understatement. Young Kathryn Newton does a great job carrying the film and the house set is nice (no poor people is this series, huh?), but the rest of the movie feels like a place holder. The problem is, how many fans are going to have the patience to see answers in the forthcoming Paranormal Activity 5 when this movie was such a bust? This was the first film in the series which truly felt rushed and I think that Paramount may have burned its bridges with fans on this one.

Paranormal Activity 4 only displays truly "paranormal activity" when it shows that the family's cat always seems to be awake on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The picture does show some shimmering and distortion which I don't remember seeing in the Blu-ray Discs of the earlier films. The colors are good and the daytime scenes look fine. Some of the nighttime scenes are a tad dark. The level of detail is good, although some shots are slightly soft. The depth is fairly good. The image contains the sort of "built in" issues that we've seen in other "found footage" movies. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would expect, the track fits the genre well. We get a nice amount of stereo and surround effects which help to point out sounds occurring off-screen. These effects show good separation and often illustrate individual sounds. The subwoofer brings home the constant low hum heard in the film and drives home the jump scares.

The lone extra on the Paranormal Activity 4 Blu-ray Disc is "The Recovered Files", which is another 29 minutes of footage. There are a few examples here of additional "creepy" moments, but it mostly consists of dialogue scenes and more examples of Alex and Ben goofing around. When Paranormal Activity was released, the Blu-ray Disc had no extras to help perpetuate the illusion that it was all real. As we now know better, they should put some extras on the home video releases.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.