Crash Analysis: Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Homewreaking disappointment 

Teen discovers next door neighbor kid’s messed in the head

Oren Peli’s PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007) rocked theatres, and brought found footage to a new level. Afterward, the guy who spent $15,000 on his dream feature earned an office at Paramount, and his franchise was born. Sadly, the second installment took a disappointing dive, only to have the series resurrected with the third venture. But the fourth crashed and burned.

Whatever magic directors Joost and Schulman had captured for the third venture, they relinquished all momentum in creating PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4. In the feature, teen Alex (Kathryn Newton) discovers some weird goings-on thanks to a creepy neighborhood boy. When her family takes him in because his mother ends up in the hospital for two weeks, he brings hell into the home.

Peli worked hard to conjure a “real world” scenario for the first three films, but screenwriter Christopher Landon threw that away as soon as the family took in the neighbor boy. After all, California’s division of Youth and Family Services would have taken the child. This lack of logic steered the story into the dumpster, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 instantly lost any chance of coming off as genuine.

Granted, there was a scare or two, but one could easily see where the train’s headed before the crash. Predictability killed any sense of suspense. Though Newton and Matt Shively (who played Ben) did their damnedest, their efforts proved futile against such a lackluster tale that had lost all credibility. The saddest element to the production, however, was the acting duo of Stephen Dunham and Alexondra Lee. They portrayed Alex’s parents in the movie, and were a married couple in real life. But Dunham died of a heart attack on September 14 before the film hit theatres.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5 is supposedly on the way, but there isn’t a script yet or a director. And that spells more trouble for the franchise. Although the third film in the series proved to be one of the best installments for a horror movie conglomeration, we may be witnessing the death of the entire project – unless Peli and company can once again recapture that supernatural magic.

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