When Paranormal Activity 3 was released, I remember seeing that it was a prequel to the first two movies, and thinking that I would have much preferred “the hunt for Katie,” something that came after the events of Paranormal Activity 2. I imagined it almost as a [Rec2] style film, about a swat team hunting down the demon (after all, didn’t technically the footage from the first film get found?).
Well…you know what they say…be careful what you wish for. Paranormal Activity 4 takes place some years after the events of PA2 and features not so much “the hunt for Katie,” as it does “Katie the demon kills a family, steals their baby, and then raises him in suburbia.”
Maybe I’m jumping ahead too much. Paranormal Activity 4 features a new family, and focuses primarily on oldest daughter Alex. Her adopted brother Wyatt has befriended their neighbor’s young son, Robbie, and when Robbie’s mom gets into an accident, Robbie comes to live with Alex and her family. That’s when creepy things start happening, and when Wyatt starts going by the name “Hunter,” the threads of the first 3 movies start poking through, and we get the usual assortment of bumps in the night, cabinets opening and closing, and the like.
What I will say is that, probably in anticipation of an audience expecting the filmmakers to “up the ante,” PA4 does get a little more vicious. I believe it probably has the highest body count of the series and the demon has moved from wearing a blanket to look like a ghost (in PA3) to lifting up knives and trying to drop them on unsuspecting victims. There are a couple of new things in PA4, but the problem is that they’re just really new ways of telling the same story as the first couple of films.
The film introduces a need little trick with an Xbox 360 that shows some cool visual ideas, but ultimately, it’s just another way of portraying the powder on the floor from the first film. Alex uses a laptop camera as her primary way of communicating, but it’s really just replacing the video cameras from the first three films. PA3 was my least favorite of the series in that it didn’t really answer the questions I’d hoped it would and, ultimately, felt a little pointless and redundant. While PA4 advances the story a bit, it really doesn’t at the same time.
Again, why did Katie kill an entire family and steal the baby (oh…spoilers for PA2 there) just to raise the damn kid in suburbia? Wasn’t the footage “found” for the original film? No one has found Katie since then? She’s not exactly hiding – hell, she went to the hospital. They don’t take blood? Who is this cult that’s worshipping the Katie demon? Why does Katie look progressively cuter in each film? Shouldn’t the demon inside of her make her look….I dunno…demony? Sickly?
Some notes specific to the Blu-ray/DVD – the post-trailer scene showing the teaser for the Spanish Paranormal Activity movie has been removed for the home video release. The unrated cut released has roughly about 10-ish minutes added to the theatrical version and, while none of the questions above get answered, the additions do improve the overall experience. “The Recovered Files,” a half hour of deleted scenes, is worth checking out, but you won’t really feel strongly that they should be re-inserted into the film.
The trick with PA4 is that literally nothing gets answered. Not only does nothing get answered, the film is essentially the same as the first two, just with a teenage girl as the lead instead of a young couple, or children. The series really needs to move forward with the already-in-production PA5 if they want to keep their audience. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it for what it was…but watching the same movie 4 times does eventually wear.