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Paranormal Activity 4 - Blu-ray Review

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Paranormal Activity 4 - Movie Review

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2 stars

Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) are back in the paranormal saddle again.  They deserve much better material.  Straining the found footage concept in an effort to top themselves, Paranormal Activity 4 quickly falls apart as our fear of the unknown becomes a fear of the familiar.

When we last heard from this directing duo they had successfully turned a circulating desk fan into a trapeze act of camera-ready tension as it panned back and forth between a living room and a kitchen.  That was one of the more memorable moments from Paranormal Activity 3.  You know, the one that involved a cult, two sisters, and a 1980’s backstory that never needed fleshing out.  This time, though, we move forward and leave the VHS days far behind.

Recorded with smartphones, live streams on YouTube, motion sensor X-Box cameras, Skype, and computer cameras galore, Paranormal Activity 4 welcomes the modern world.  Yes, indeed, Big Brother is watching; your entire life can now be and is being recorded.  And no one seems to mind.  Of course, the fourth entry isn’t a statement film.  It exists solely to shock viewers into buying another ticket for next October’s Paranormal Activity 5.  The technology might have improved but, with most of the film’s legitimate scares relegated to the final fifteen minutes, the results aren’t nearly as terrifying.  And, of course, the story is never resolved.

Five years after the events in Paranormal Activity 2, a new suburban family gets terrorized by an audience-familiar spirit.  Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) find themselves arguing against logic and their parents as they try to prove – with really good evidence – that their house is haunted.  The family, after agreeing to take care of Robbie (Brady Allen) - a neighborhood kid – for a few days while his mother is in the hospital, have suddenly entered into a whole heap of haunted … exposition.

It seems Robbie has an imaginary friend, a vengeful female protector (Katie Featherston), and a hidden agenda involving Hunter (last seen as a baby being dragged away in Paranormal Activity 2).  They also are very, very interested in Alex’s younger brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), and routinely try to distract him from the middle-class charm of his suburban upbringing.  It is Alex and her boyfriend’s duty to effectively spy on this strange kid and survive.

The performances are solid.  There’s not a false note rang from the kids or from Featherston.  The problem lies with the film’s foundation and its execution.  Paranormal Activity 4 is disappointing in that its writers, Christopher Landon and Chad Feehan, play everything entirely – including its ending - much too safe.  There’s little sense of the danger that threatened the children the third feature nursed so well.  And the large amount of exposition the flick slams in our face amounts to little of the story being revealed.

Joost and Schulman don’t help matters either as they play most of the film for teenage laughs.  Scares are minimized as they step too far out of the believability realm.  Other than a strange bathtub “drowning” and a couple of interesting shots from the POV of the Xbox camera, their visual sense is compromised by the reliance of everyday gadgets.  Building tension through a MacBook camera just defies logic.  Close the screen already.

The ominous sounds from the soundtrack and nerve-kicking night scenes are really all you get as scares and those – more than with any other in the series – rely on cheap jump scares to get a rise from the audience.  It’s a brain dead tactic.  Something one would think Joost and Schulman are better than.  Though will the use of modern day technologies, gaps in the logic of the screenplay are spotted and, at times, wallowed in.  The filmmakers try to offset these flaws by ramping up the wisecracks from the actors.  Instead, the jarring humor works to disable the growing tension.

And yet there’s a bit of fun in the old gal yet.  Call it a drop in the paranormal bucket because it is ever so slight this time around.  Paranormal Activity 4’s final fifteen minutes or so is a testament to just how effective found footage can work when used appropriately.  And, in a crowded theater, mob mentality ethics should exploit enough patrons to cause one another to scream out in terror.  There shouldn’t be a dry pair of pants leaving the theater when it ends.   The only question is whether or not you can get through the absolute malarkey and the laziness of it all by yourself.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Paranormal Activity 4 - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for language and some violence/terror.
Runtime:
88 mins
Director
: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Writer: Christopher Landon
Cast:
Katie Featherston; Kathryn Newton; Matt Shively; Brady Allen; Alisha Boe
Genre: Horror
Tagline:
It's Closer Than You Think
Memorable Movie Quote: "There's something going on across the street."
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
www.paranormalmovie.com
Release Date: October 19, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 29, 2013

Synopsis: It has been five years since the disappearance of Katie and Hunter, and a suburban family witness strange events in their neighborhood when a woman and a mysterious child move in.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Paranormal Activity 4 - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie
 
Blu-ray Disc
2 stars
 
3 stars
     
Blu-ray Experience
2.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 29, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A

Things might go bump in Paramount’s disappointing Paranormal Activity 4. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which keeps the image sharp and clear. As usual, there is no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are good and the daytime scenes look fine. Some of the nighttime scenes are a too dark to really see anything of fright. The level of detail is good, although some shots are slightly soft. By now, we know what to expect for the look of this series. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would expect, the surround effects point out sounds occurring off-screen and are pretty solid for a few good scares. The subwoofer brings home the constant low hum heard in the film and drives home the jump scares.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

While the Blu-ray release features an unrated version of the film, the supplemental material is lacking for the series continuation. Now that everyone in the world knows it’s not real, we deserve a bit of information about the making of the movie. With no commentary, the lone extra is a featurette called The Recovered Files which adds another 29 minutes of footage. There are a few examples of good scares, but it mostly consists of dialogue scenes and more examples of the boys screwing around.

  • The Rediscovered Files (29 min)

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