Paranormal Activity 4 | Movie review
The directors of Catfish push the franchise deeper into convention.
The Paranormal Activity franchise may be with us as long as we have cameras—and in truth, there are worse annual rituals than sitting through a movie that wants to scare you with its formal rigor. Last year’s Paranormal Activity 3 experimented with an oscillating viewfinder and the cruddiness of ’80s camcorders. More spin-off than sequel, the overplotted Paranormal Activity 4 jumps forward to November 2011, where webcams and camera phones promise better image quality and increased mobility. Bafflingly, apart from a sort of hi-def night-vision gimmick, returning Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman don’t take much advantage of either upgrade. Rather, pushing the franchise deeper into convention, the filmmakers fall back on loose chandeliers, pets suddenly jumping into frame and one superbly Chekhovian plant of a carving knife. An increasing reliance on effects shots further destroys the illusion that we’re watching amateur footage. (This series has gotten less scary the more it’s strayed from a tripod.) Stick around through the end credits for what appears to be a teaser for Paranormal Activity 5.