Paranormal Activity 1 was easy to dismiss as overly reliant on a gimmick. What’s harder is denying that it was pretty effective. It was scary, innovative, and massively profitable. Using ultra-low budget techniques as part of the storytelling method, it had a unique look and feel, which is increasingly difficult to create in a media-saturated world. Naturally, it was immediately copied by everyone.
Paranormal Activity 2 was largely unmemorable to me, but part 3 got some new directors and introduced a bit more overall plot, essentially giving the series a shot in the arm. Those same directors have returned, with what is undoubtedly the worst movie in the series. Their attempt to introduce a new gimmick to the series, based on (honestly) the XBox Kinect system has potential, but it’s not utilized well. There is a creepy moment or two, but as I was watching it, I thought of something particularly scary that could happen, but it never did. Then later a friend told me another idea for the XBox scene that would also have been scarier than what was actually on screen.
Not only does their attempt at creativity falter, but the effort at including some of the more expansive elements of the plot goes nowhere. Most of the movie takes place in the house, as is traditional for the series. Towards the end, when they start referencing the outside power that seems to be aiding the “demon,” anyone who saw part 3 will recognize where they are going. What should be a great opportunity to add in even more story to this world falls utterly flat, as they add nothing new to what they revealed in part 3. Even worse than a weak subplot, though, is that the main plot falls apart immediately when you start thinking about it after the movie. Generally I can rationalize some plot holes, but there is one SO big in this movie that it virtually invalidates the story.
To end on a slightly positive note–the lead actress was pretty good. As far as I know, she’s an unknown, so it’s a good break for her. And the final frantic few scenes are certainly much more effective then the rest of the movie. So much so that you wish more of the movie had that kind of energy.
It’s not surprising that part 4 of a cheap horror franchise is bad. If you were a fan of the first 3, you might still enjoy this, but for even a casual fan like me, it’s a big waste of time.