The 11th entry in our Conjuring/Blumhouse series’ reviews, Paranormal Activity 4 has something in common with Insidious 3: we’ve moved on to a whole new family. The question becomes: How do they handle it? Rather than focus on one movie, I’m going to review the last three movies in the series since we’re running out of runway.
Turns out, not all that well but… It just hits some bumps that the rest of the series doesn’t quite recover from. There’s room for a massive universe in this world, but the attempts to expand it fell sort of flat except for the Marked Ones. That branch could really be expanded on without much effort in part because they totally left Katie and Hunter out until the end of the movie.
First, the fourth one: The X-Box effect with the dots was cool as hell, especially the way they showed Toby. The delay in seeing anyone from the first three movies is good aside from the ending twist. The acting is pretty good given that it’s mostly centered around a weird teen boy and the main character he’s crushing on. The parents are once again sort of dopes, which is a trope I’m about tired of. Parents usually know more than anyone lets on.
It was sort of seen coming a mile away, but the identity of the little brother as Hunter was stupid and confusing. How did Katie lose Hunter, but somehow get a different kid? They never make this make sense in the movies. It is the single worst thing in the entire franchise, and I include the stupid time tunnel from the fifth and final movie in this.
Now, the fifth and final movie (“Ghost Dimension”): You can tell this is it. This one was unquestionably the worst movie in the series (still better than Seedpeople), and might be the worst Blumhouse movie I’ve seen. It’s weak and it connects to the other movies in an obnoxious way. There’s no real rhyme or reason for this family being targeted, which should be scary, but it’s just absurd. Also, for a series that has mostly eschewed having religion play a part the sudden introduction and idiot-stick carrying of the priest in this was annoying. If you don’t like these sort of movies, don’t see this one.
That said, I’d still rather watch it than a gross, gore-fest.
The Marked Ones: A surprising breath of fresh-air. In this, there’s zero reason for the people to be chosen for attack yet somehow they make it work far better than the fifth movie does. Other than a pretty damn good twist toward the end involving Katie and Micah, there’s not a whole lot tying this movie to the rest of the franchise — and unlike the above, that is part of why it works. Yeah, we get a brief reunion with the teenager from the second movie. But that helps, not hurts.
If they want to expand the franchise, this movie is the blue-print for it. I didn’t like it on my initial watch because I felt like it was a stupid attempt to tie the two together, but now that I’ve seen the entire franchise and put some distance between me and the first time I saw it, I have to say: I was wrong at first, probably because I wanted more of what the first three movies offered. This movie is different enough that it’s worth seeing.
One thing I will note about all six movies in the franchise, here at the end: There was an enormous opportunity for a ton of unnecessary gratuitous nudity in these films and we didn’t get so much as a butt-crack. This is neither criticism nor praise, but rather an observation. The show-runners chose not to go down that path but they definitely touched on the possibility in pretty much every movie: boyfriends/husbands want there to be some nudity at least once a movie. Again, neither praising nor criticizing, just noticing that.
The same exact thing can be said for gore, of which they could have absolutely packed in. Again, this is a neutral observation. There was a lot of opportunity for a lot of things that they didn’t go for.
Now that I’ve finished the entire franchise and reviewed them (albeit in rapid form here for half of them), I’d say the rankings for me are: 3, 2, 1 (though 1 and 2 are kind of tied), Marked Ones, 4, 5.
Report Card: (4 / 5 / Marked Ones)
Running Time: An hour thirty nine, an hour thirty seven, an hour twenty four
Acting: Decent but trending down, decent, pretty good.
Effects: Limited and entertaining (across all three).
Violence: Minor on screen, minor on screen, somewhat.
Gun Use: No, no, minor gang confrontation.
Gore: No (across all three).
Creepy? Not until the end, not until the end, and holy shit the end.
Monster Type? A demon (across all three).
Funny? No, no, a little.
Pacing: Shaky, studdery, decent.