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‘Paranormal Activity 4’ brings lots of fright, but little merit

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Daytime is no longer safe with the fourth installment of the popular “Paranormal Activity” franchise. Poorly executed, poorly written and poorly performed, the film only accomplishes one thing:  it scares the living bejeezus out of viewers. Since this film is, by definition, a horror film and is impossible to review for its overall quality, “Paranormal Activity 4” unfortunately receives a good review because the film achieves what it set out to do.

This fourth installment takes place five years after Katie (Katie Featherston) killed her boyfriend and family and ran off with little baby Hunter. Kathryn Newton stars as Alex, an average 15 year old trying to make her way through the world.

She is working on a project for class and carries a video camera with her at all times, giving “Paranormal Activity 4” its signature lifelike feel. In fact, the majority of the film uses computer cameras and Skype sessions to tell its story. It seems like horror films are finally adapting to modern-day technology.

The film begins when Robbie and his adopted mom, Katie, move to town.

Alex immediately begins to experience terrifying incidents, most of which were created just to spook audience members, rather than develop the plot.

“Paranormal Activity 4” stays true to its roots. Despite a mediocre third installment, this film manages to scare in ways unbeknownst to modern horror movies. Never before has a film effectively utilized all times of day to scare. The audience will clench in fear during the daylight scenes, just as much as one would at night. Granted, the majority of terrifying incidents take place at night, but the daytime includes several startling scenes.

Another distinguished aspect of this film is how the terror continues after the audience leaves the theatre. Images will haunt dreams and the drive home will be a situation worthy of a horror movie. Much like “The Exorcist,” this film uses its eerie feel to haunt viewers for several hours afterward.

However, “Paranormal Activity 4” still reeks of the same pathetic horror movie stench. When will these characters learn not to yell, “Hello,” and then walk into the scary dark room? It will never be understood why families involved in “Paranormal Activity” don’t just walk out the door and abandon the demon.

The piteous aspect of this film would not be complete without dumb and annoying adults. Alex attempts to mention the problems, but they think she’s insane and refuse to listen. Shouldn’t parents listen to their kids instead of deeming them insane? This seems unnatural.

Part of the thrill comes from experiencing the film’s terror in a sold-out theater. The pitch-black atmosphere and screaming audience members only enhance the pre-existing panic. Without the theater environment, any “Paranormal Activity” film would be a waste of time. It would be like walking through a haunted house with the lights on. No one would want to waste money on that. It is extremely important to see this film in a theater if one wishes to fully embrace all its horrific qualities.

“Paranormal Activity 4” definitely won’t win any awards anytime soon, but when it comes to terrifying audience members so much that they’ll jump the next day when a dog barks, this film does an exceptional job. If you’re looking for a film of merit, this is not it, but would anyone expect that from “Paranormal Activity?” The film attempts to scare, and it succeeds.

egolden@unews.com

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