Oren Peli’s low-budget 2009 horror Paranormal Activity was a welcome injection of adrenaline to the horror genre.
Made for a reported 15,000 US dollars and shot in the Israeli-born film-maker’s home, the first film grossed almost 200 million US dollars worldwide, giving birth to a franchise that has churned out sequels at a rate of one film per year.
This eagerly anticipated fourth chapter retains directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and propels the narrative forwards five years after the events of Paranormal Activity 3.
Fans will be delighted by a steady drip-feed of jolts and the return of one old face to provide a clear link between the instalments.
However, while Paranormal Activity 4 is unsettling and honours the established mythology, there’s very little here we haven’t jumped and shrieked at before, and the flimsy storyline doesn’t develop the characters.
Protagonists are in the wrong place at the wrong time and their deaths are a mere interlude before the inevitable fifth film, which is apparently in the works for Halloween next year.
At the end of the third film, set in 2006, Katie (Katie Featherston) killed her sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and made off into the night with her baby nephew, Hunter.
They disappear from Carlsbad, California, without trace.
Years later we move to the leafy community of Henderson, Nevada, where plucky teenager Alice (Kathryn Newton) lives with her parents (Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee) and younger brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp).
When a single mother, who lives next door, is taken ill, Alice’s mother agrees to provide temporary refuge for the sick woman’s son, Robbie (Brady Allen).
Alice quickly realises that there is something peculiar about the new arrival and she grows concerned by the control that Robbie seems to exert over Wyatt.
“Ever since he got here, crazy stuff’s been happening!” Alice protests.
Naturally, her parents ignore her pleas, even when the daughter is almost killed by falling fixtures.
With the help of her boyfriend Alex (Matt Shively), who is a technical wizard, Alice rigs up cameras around her family home to spy on Robbie.
The teenagers discover disturbing evidence of a malevolent force in the family home.
Paranormal Activity 4 has a few decent scares and a terrific piece of sustained tension with a missing kitchen knife.
The centrepiece gimmick with the Xbox’s infrared motion-tracking dot matrix is incredibly neat but Joost and Schulman slightly overuse it.
The presence of laptop cameras in key scenes defies belief.
Who in their right mind would wander around a house in the dead of night to investigate strange noises with a computer resting in their hands?
Visual tricks outweigh narrative treats but when the film screams “Boo!”, we still jump.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
Released: October 17 (UK & Ireland), 87 mins