Plot: What’s it about?
Horror movies are probably the most fun films to watch as the evoke a somewhat primordial response (from me, anyway). There’s that feeling of not knowing what will happen, a loud scream, a sudden movement and then…POW! You spill your popcorn all over the floor. Or do you? You see, some horror films and some nearly qualify as franchises nowadays, have become so complacent that it’s not really fun to watch them anymore. Is this the case with the Paranormal Activity movies? Six years ago we were first treated to the first Paranormal Activity film and it took the world by storm. There weren’t any real “monsters” to speak of, no masked villains who were taking out people one by one. No, this was a much more sedated movie about things that literally go “bump” in the night. And when you think about it, what could be more frightening than not feeling safe in your own home – much less dealing with something that you can’t even be sure is real or not? And thus a franchise began.
I’ll go on the assumption that anyone reading this has seen at least one of the three previous movies, but if not this one is so disassociated from the others, I suppose it doesn’t matter. In this installment we meet Alex (Kathryn Newton), a teenager who spends her life online together with her wanna be boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively). The children are the main focus of this film and though the parents are present, they don’t really factor into the equation. As fate would have it, a new “family” moves in across the street and viewers will recognize Katie (Katie Featherston) from the previous installments. Her “son” is Robbie (Brady Allen) who goes to live with this family across the street after Katie is evidently hospitalized. Of course, strange things start to happen and Alex and Ben seem to walk around the house with laptops in hand recording anything and everything that moves. There is a pretty cool effect that I do want to try with my X-Box, seeing if the thousands of little green lights really do show up under infra-red light. Probably. Just like in previous installments, the “happenings” get more and more obvious and before they realize what’s going on, well…you get the idea.
I’m actually a fan of this series not so much for the fear factor of it, rather it’s one of the films that actually makes my wife scared. Now that might sound a bit harsh, but she loves to be scared and over the course of a year I try and show her new films and none of them do the trick; just these. IMDB has rated this film as a 4.4 on a scale of 1-10 and while I think that’s a bit low, it is by far my least favorite of the series (I’d say that the first one would be the best, as per usual). I suppose the way these moves are set up, you don’t really need any sort of regular cast, though they seem intent on bringing in at least one recurring cast member per film. If memory serves, the first movie featured a husband and wife, the second focused on her sister, the third focused on the sisters when they were kids (aka the “80’s” one) and with this, Katie is back with a mysterious nephew. If you’ve seen any of the prior installments you’ll know what to expect. Of note look for the ridiculous amount of product placements for Apple products.
Video: How does it look?
Just like the other films in the franchise, Paranormal Activity 4 is shown in a 1.78:1 AVC HD transfer that has varying degrees of quality. This isn’t a fault of the transfer per se, rather the mediums used to record different scenes. The majority of the film is shown via a “web cam” in that the laptops are being carried around and placed throughout the house are used as surrogate cameras. The result is a rather grainy image, and the POV equates to a very shaky hand held look. One really cool thing that this movie had was the X-Box Kinect sequence when we see it via the infra-red camera. Thousands of little green dots appear all around the room and if you look closely, you’ll see a little more than you expect. The sharpness of a regular Hollywood movie isn’t really there and this is one of those rare occasions in which the video quality doesn’t really matter.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack does have some moments and I always forget that in these films you know something’s about to happen when I hear the LFE start to rumble. Yes, it really is that predictable, but it kind of gets you ready to expect something (which is why they keep doing it, I suppose). Vocals take front and center here though some of the dialogue is a bit hard to understand, especially in the background. Then again this is consistent with the laptop’s web cam doing all the filming and the person in front will be easier to hear than the person in the back. There are a few instances in which the surrounds really get involved and make their presence known, but not too many. By and large this is a surround track with a few ambient effects thrown in for good measure.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is severely lacking in supplements unless you count that this contains an unrated Director’s cut along with the theatrical version of the film. We also get nearly thirty minutes of “newly found footage” as the lone extra. There’s a digital copy and a DVD on a second disc as well.