A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paranormal Activity 4 is the fourth in the spooky Paranormal Activity series. Violence is about the same as in the others: More is suggested than shown, though there are some sudden bursts of "demon" activity (i.e. characters tossed about and injured by unseen forces). A teen's neck is snapped, and there are some monster faces and a little blood (mostly in flashback). Language is a bit stronger in this one, with several uses of both "f--k" and "s--t." A teen boy and girl flirt mildly but mostly seem to be friends. An Xbox with Kinect becomes a major storytelling device. Teens who survived the first three movies might want to make it a point to catch this one, but it's becoming very clear that the series is running out of steam.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
At the end of Paranormal Activity 2, Katie (Katie Featherston) and her young nephew disappeared. In PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, we catch up with a new family, a couple with a teen daughter, Alex (Kathryn Newton), and an adopted son, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). Strange neighbor boy Robbie (Brady Allen) starts showing up and hanging around with Wyatt; weird things start to happen, and Robbie seems to be able to see and speak to some kind of mysterious imaginary friend. Alex's friend, Ben (Matt Shively), rigs the family's computers (one in every room?) to record everything. Meanwhile, Alex meets Robbie's adopted mother, Katie, in the house across the street. What's going on here, and how is it connected to Katie's sinister past?
Is it any good?
The story here, hinged on one big twist, makes absolutely no sense, and whatever sympathy we used to have for Katie is now gone. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman -- who came up with some inspired ideas for Paranormal Activity 3 as well as making the unsettling Catfish -- can't seem to find a reason for Paranormal Activity 4 to exist.
The scares have also grown lazy. The nighttime sequences, usually reserved for the big stuff, are now tepid and disappointing, and the daytime sequences, usually reserved for rest periods, are now filled with silly jump-shock stuff, often having nothing to do with the paranormal (i.e., a cat jumping into the frame). Even the surveillance footage is haphazardly explained here, whereas in the previous films there was always a reason for it. The only interesting factor is that the film continues its exploration of "broken," and/or nontraditional family units. But sadly, that's not enough to recommend this tired sequel.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Paranormal Activity 4's violence, both implied and shown. Which kind has more impact? Why?
How scary was the movie? What scared you most, and why? How did you feel about being scared?
What would be the effect of constantly filming your life?
Is Alex, the teen girl, a role model? What does she do that's courteous and helpful, and what does she do that's not?
- In theaters: October 19, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: January 29, 2013
- Cast: Kathryn Newton, Katie Featherston, Matt Shively
- Directors: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some violence/terror
- Last updated: May 25, 2020
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