Taking place a couple of years after the 4th film, this iteration of Paranormal Activity follows teenager Alex and her boyfriend Ben as they struggle through a series of disturbing events that seem to be brought upon by their neighbor’s 9 year old son, Robbie. When Robbie’s mother falls ill, Alex’s parents allow Robbie to stay with them. During this time, Robbie begins to befriend Alex’s younger brother Wyatte while at the same time bringing forth an evil presence to the house.
Will Alex and Ben be able to figure out the mystery behind Robbie and his mother in time or will they suffer a terrible fate at the invisible hands of Robbie’s eerie guardian?
It is hard to really get deep into this review without posting any spoilers. However, there are several things I am able to touch on that do not reveal too much of the story. The first thing I would like to touch on is the most important topic for a horror film and that is Suspense. During the first half of the movie, when Robbie is introduced, the suspense is rather beautiful. The actor they got to portray Robbie is just so damn creepy with his monotone voice and expressionless face. He has no problems staring unblinkingly into the camera as he talks about imaginary friends or how upset he is with the family’s interference with his “playtime”. He is also very manipulative, able to convincingly alter the family’s son (Wyatte) personality from that of a upbeat, happy child to a reserved, quiet, scared little thing. In fact, one could call Robbie and Wyatte’s relationship akin to an abusive husband and his scared wife. There are moments where you can almost taste the fear Wyatte has whenever he is around Robbie and the way he refuses to do anything without Robbie’s permission is just terrifying because you want to know what exactly Robbie has done or said to little Wyatte.
I really enjoyed watching Alex and Ben interact with one another. They do seem like a real couple at times. Alex’s paranoia of Robbie is very believable which is only hindered by the fact that her parents are so detached from their family that they don’t ever take a moment to listen to her. You see, unlike the parents in the previous films, all of which work together and listen to one another at one point or another, Alex’s parents are actually quite brash in how they deal with the situations. The reason is due to their failing marriage which gives a bit more believability to why they refuse to pay attention to not only Alex’s warnings and pleas, but Wyatte’s changing behavior.
Acting aside, we need to get to the bare bones of this film and that lies within its suspense and execution. Sadly, it fails in both aspects. There are some very awesome moments of suspense that litters the film here and there, but a majority of it is rather weak. The rising horror present in the last films (that is, the haunting growing more and more violent or eerie) is not really present in this one. We are really treated to the entity just messing with things more than actually scaring anyone. In the previous films we were treated to entire rooms being thrashed, people being yanked around throughout their houses, loud growling, floating sheets, and other eerie moments. In 4, these are too few and far between. In fact, the moment Robbie is no longer being used (he is absent during the entire 2nd half of the film), the suspense seems to dwindle drastically.
What is more bothersome comes to the end of the film. Without giving anything away, the movie just peters out at the end. It uses the same elements from the 2nd and 3rd film and the film ends with a whimper instead of a scream. It was very disappointing and it just left me sitting there with a “That’s it?” expression on my face.
Paranormal 4 has its share of questions that are never explained, moments that just seem to drag on too long, and a rather disappointing ending. In fact, it doesn’t really do anything to move the Paranormal storyline other than discuss the entity for a very brief, 3 minutes moment in the middle of the film.
Fortunately it has been confirmed that the creator and writer for the original film is returning to do the fifth one which will be out this October. Let’s hope he is able to shed more light on the storyline than this one did.