Starring: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovekamp
Before we get going please remember that I am not only a fan of found footage films, but also a big supporter of the Paranormal Activity franchise. Keep that firmly in your mind when you read the rest of this review.
As far as the review is concerned, I am going to keep this fairly detail free, other than a few SPOILERS at the very end of the article after the ratings. This may seem like lazy journalism, but my reasoning is that either A) You hate the PA franchise and will avoid this anyway or B) You love the PA franchise and will watch this anyway. As such, my words will almost certainly not change your view.
The Paranormal Activity series is a massively flawed one, I accept that. I personally love it, but I will happily sit down with any “hater” and chat about all the BS plot holes and terrible acting. I can see past that, and just enjoy the cheap thrills it gives me.
That being said, how long can the same format continue to be entertaining? I enjoyed the first three instalments in different ways, and liked that they not only went for the easy pops, but also tried to give the story a little depth, albeit a little convoluted in part three.
Four films in, with the story seemingly revolving around a coven of witches who made a deal with a demon, lamely called Toby, and his attempts to possess a young boy, this film should answer some, if not all, of the questions we have from the other three films. Instead what we are left with is 90 minutes of rehashed scares, all delivered slower and without any of the same oomph as before, with no real progression of the Toby / Witch theme.
Not only are we given a film that feels like more filler than killer, but one which gives even more questions that are unresolved.
Overall, whilst there is some enjoyment to be had from PA4 (it’s not a complete write off) it just felt like a bored attempt to keep the franchise alive. If this is what we can now expect from these films, then I would suggest that you stop going to see them, and they will eventually disappear.
As promised my main review is detail-free, but for all those who are curious, I have listed below the things I liked and disliked about this installment, plus the unanswered questions that are racking up. If you are planning on seeing the film soon, please be aware this comes with a HEAVY SPOILER WARNING and you may want to read the list after you watch the film. You will see the cons far outweigh the pros and I am not alone in this view. The reaction to this film has been the most negative so far, and if PA5 is to succeed they really need to up their game.
Before I rattle off all the goods, bads and uglies, we have the ratings….
Rating 2.5 out of 5
And now beware, for Toby and SPOILERS await those beyond this point……
What I liked:
Alex & Ben – These two teenagers are the main characters this time around, and possibly the most likeable ones in the franchise to date. I genuinely wanted one or both of them to survive.
XBOX Kinnect – A gimmick, admittedly, but a pretty cool one, although they may have played this card one too many times.
New Scares – Whilst most of the scenes were somewhat rehashes of the events from the first three films (mysteriously opening doors etc) they did try new things, such as the attempt to suffocate Alex in the garage presumably so it would look like a suicide rather than a suspicious death. So they tried to think outside the box then.
What I didn’t like:
Mom & Pop – Pointless additions to the cast. Whilst PA4 gave us the best two characters it somehow managed to also give us the most flat characters so far too.
In-FX-ual – Whilst PA1 to PA3 have all had “How the hell did they do that?” moments, this one had effects which either looked cheap, or were so poorly executed that you could see the equipment used. Oh dear.
The Set Up – If you say on the poster “All the activity led to this” and don’t then further the story line, but just make a slow 90 minute filler, you are asking for trouble.
Not sharp enough – At one point, the mother is chopping some peppers. She turns her back and the knife shoots upwards without her seeing it. That knife then proceeds to do nothing for another 30 minutes until, on a different day, it inexplicably falls into the kitchen counter 5 seconds after the father has walked away form that spot. What was the point? So Toby held the knife up there for all that time to do nothing but let it drop and not harm anyone? Pathetic.
Butter fingers – In the final scenes, Alex is being dragged through her house by Toby. Without any explanation, the next moment she is running in the middle of the street with a camera in her hand. Presumably she either escaped or Toby let her go, but why on Earth would she stop to grab a camera?
Bad story telling – At one point Alex discovers the triangle / circle symbol first seen in PA3. After research, she discovers that there are three stages to possessing a child. The first two parts occur during the film, but then the third part doesn’t. Why set something up and not have the money shot?
Locked Door – When Alex tries to retrieve Wyatt and Robbie (her younger brother and the kid from across the street) from the other house, she comes across a door that is heavily padlocked, but at no point do they explain what is there. What’s important about it then? Why did Robbie have a key around his neck the whole time? Does this mean anything at all?
Coven – In the final scene there are seemingly about a hundred witches in the garden, why? Also where they witches or possessed like Katie?
Hunter – Is Wyatt or Robbie the real Hunter? If it is Wyatt, why is this such a vague point that isn’t really explained in anyway, such as why he was no longer with Katie? One theory is she put him up for adoption so he could live a normal life, but if that were true why kidnap him in the first place?
Robbie – If Robbie isn’t Hunter, who or what is he?! How comes he was in the play house and then disappeared towards the end of the film? Is he real or an apparition?
For Fork’s Sake – If Robbie is not what he seems then is there any relevance to the 100 year old fork that he brings with him into the house? Or the century old stuffed toy for that matter?
D.I.V.O.R.C.E – What was the point of having the parents having the ongoing arguing throughout the film? Was there any purpose or was this to make it look like a “real” family, as opposed to all the happiness that the previous characters have had?
Daddy Dearest – Whilst the father is seen to be dragged through the house at the end, we don’t actually see him die, and then he suddenly disappears. Is he involved somehow?
Toby & “Child” – In one scene Wyatt is seen talking to Toby, whilst at the same time a child shaped apparition is behind him, creeping up slowly. Are there now two demons? Was that Toby as well?
Finders Losers – Near the end, we see Ben telephone Alex and leave a message to say he has discovered something and needs to show her, but he dies before we find out what he found. What was it?!
Still unanswered from the earlier films:
What happened to Kristi and Katie between the events in PA3 and PA1? Why don’t they remember anything?
In PA1 Katie spoke about a fire when they were younger, but PA3 didn’t have a fire in it at all. Is the fire of any importance?
Where is the girl who survived PA2? Will she come back in any way?
What does Toby actually want? Once he possesses Hunter will that be the end of it?