Starring Katie Featherstone, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively and Brady Allen. Written by Christopher Landon and Chad Feehan. Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman. Produced by Jason Blum, Akiva Goldsman, James Moran, Oren Peli, Gregory Plotkin and Steven Schneider.
There's something to be said about the mockumentary style that the Paranormal movies are shot in. While it's not action-driven or jump-out-of-your-seat scary, it will have you frozen with fear and desperately anticipating the inevitable next move. And because it all seems so convincing and is happening to normal people, it'll haunt you well after leaving the theatre and marks a whole new level of terrifying that horror movies previously hadn't reached (not even the Blair With Project). It's not necessarily the movie theatre experience that disturbs, but rather the thought of it- the thought of not knowing or having control over what happens to us at night when we're unconscious lying in our beds. Of all the installments, Paranormal Activity 4 comes closest to the original in terms of style and content and has almost an identical effect.
This time around, the creepiness is documented on Katie's (Featherstone) webcam when her boyfriend, Alex (Shively), notices some bizarre things happening after their conversations, when Robbie comes to live with her family temporarily. As far as her family knows, his mother's sick and he has no other family to take him in – and while he's a little weird, he's harmless. Katie knows something different, however, and starts to investigate more when she learns Robbie has an "invisible friend" that controls him and roams the halls of her house late at night.
The scenery for this movie is effective in making its viewers feel uneasy – big rooms of chandeliers and a spacious kitchen with plenty of nooks and crannies make for plenty of opportunity to startle. And the night-vision mode of the camera is used a lot to show the movement of another entity that isn't visible during the day, making us anxious everytime the lights go off during the movie. The lead actors, Featherstone and Shively, give performances so real, you feel like you're watching someone's home video. They act exactly how you'd imagine two teenagers to and maintain energy throughout the film, balancing being disturbed and being curious. And Brady is chilling as the mysteriously mature child that speaks cryptically and provides a nice mix of being scared and being scary at the same time – the majority of the movie is spent wondering whether he's being haunted or if he's the one doing the haunting.
When the plot finally unravels, the story begins to look a little fuzzy. It comes full circle to the events at the beginning of the movie, but some of the reasons behind them remain unclear and its ancient cultural ties are not exactly connected to what happens. Perhaps the next movie will delve further into the background or conclusively make sense of everything that occurred. If that's the case, then this movie serves as a nice thorough stepping stone and will certainly have you anticipating the next installment. If not, then you'll probably be scratching your head for a long time trying to figure out how all of the elements fit together. —Rebecca Hillary