Review: Paranormal Activity 4

The sun goes down, everyone goes to bed, that low rumble kicks in and the demon comes out to play. The first “Paranormal Activity” was entirely new territory. In the second, the plot thickened and scares still felt fresh. By the time we hit the third, we were well aware of what was coming, but quality character development kept us firmly invested. While “Paranormal Activity 4” does achieve a degree of success, franchise quality is clearly starting to crack and give way to the gimmick.

New town, new family. In round four, the “Paranormal Activity” franchise ditches California for Nevada and puts the focus on Alex (Kathryn Newton), her parents, little brother Wyatt and boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively). They’re a loving family, living in a beautiful home in a quaint suburban neighborhood – minus the weird little boy that lives across the street, Robbie (Brady Allen). When Robbie’s mother is rushed to the hospital, Alex’s parents are kind enough to take him in for a few nights. Cue the traditional “Paranormal Activity” “Night #” labels.

Initially, the idea of having another “Paranormal Activity” without Katie and Kristi at the core was a little disconcerting, but Alex is sweet, charming and believable enough to win you over in minutes, and the same goes for Ben and her family. After quickly reminding viewers of the horrors of 2006 and that Katie is still at large, the film cuts to Alex’s point of view, offering a look at the new family dynamic. Thanks to a well-established norm, Robbie’s arrival is as jarring for the audience as it is for Alex. The concept of the creepy kid next door letting the demon in is both eerie and, thanks to Ben’s commentary, quite amusing, but it does slowly fizzle out.

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