PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is an unexpected, accurate portrayal of youth in the new generation. Kids born in the late 1990s, known to some as “generation y”, have a vastly different view of technology than those conceived in earlier years. Because these children have spent more of their lives with high-tech computers, and live in a generation where virtually everyone has a cell phone, they’re bound to be different. In comes PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4: easily the most superficial entry in the series. The need to appeal to a younger generation led to an entirely different experience than the previous installments. Although all of the films have similar premises — a family begins to notice unusual occurrences in their home that soon give way to supernatural phenomena — PA4 stands apart from the rest because it’s meant for a younger crowd. In other words, this movie is more about the main character’s attractive face, and less about the ghostly happenings in the house.
Younger audiences might not even notice this unusual approach, because younger people have been raised in a world where reality shows are the norm, and everyone has a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube channel, iMessage, texting, and more. This doesn’t mean that people who were born in recent years have anything wrong with them, it just makes sense that they would be more accepting of an entire film wrapping around one person’s face. In this case, that face belongs to the lead character, Alex. Most of the movie is Alex talking into her computer screen, with her face being the focal point. Whereas in the previous entries, cameras were placed in each corner of the houses to capture any suspicious activity, this film is mostly captured by Alex herself, carrying her camera/laptop/iPhone around to film every single moment of her life. It may seem somewhat normal to people of the newer generation, but to folks like me who grew up typing on a black screen with bright green letters, it’s quite odd. I found myself wondering several times why Alex would continue filming when scenes became more unnerving, and even why she would bother filming mundane everyday activities, but maybe the simple fact is just that I don’t see the necessity of it because I wasn’t raised in an era where constant filming is so acceptable. Of course, this question tends to arise whenever a movie is found footage, but in this film in particular, the rampant use became quite ridiculous.
Another aspect that bothered me was the negligent parents that were so detached from their offspring. It seems that no matter how many times her life is endangered, or how much strange footage Alex shows her parents, they just won’t take her seriously. Once, Alex even comes close to dying from carbon monoxide poisoning and still, her mother and father refuse to show any concern for her well being. They constantly tell her that she’s overreacting, and leave the explanation to her overly-creative mind. But even if Alex is just going crazy, wouldn’t the length to which her mind is willing to wander frighten her parents, at least a little? A daughter goes so mad with ideas of ghosts that she nearly takes her own life, and yet, they are unaffected? Either she has the worst parents in the world, or the writer needed to spend a little more time on character development. I’m guessing it’s the latter.
Overall, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is a systematic recollection of the previous installments, with far too many “nights” to keep interest, and too much of the film’s success reliant of on how beautiful Alex is…which is very strange, by the way, because she’s supposed to be fifteen years old. The final five minutes are almost exciting enough to make up for the rest of the film, but compared to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, this entry hardly holds any lasting scares.