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Blu-ray Reviews

Paranormal Activity 4 Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 8 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted January 27 2013 - 03:02 AM

The once dominant Saw series met its end as the October mainstay through a tiring audience and the new kid in town beating it at its own game. Paranormal Activity was that new kid and its entrance onto the scene was achieved through savvy marketing and a fresh scary movie conceit. After a few years as king of the Halloween season in theaters, part four’s arrival was met with less enthusiasm though the quality of the film itself was no more and no less than that of its predecessors. Chalk it up to the wearing off of the new car smell, the coddling of the familiar routine, or simply the unpredictable ebbing of audience desires. Whatever the reason; the Paranormal Activity franchise felt the box office brakes. Only October 2013 and the fifth installment will tell us if the cameras will be shut off for good or if a creative and financial resurgence are in the cards.





Paranormal Activity 4


Studio: Paramount Studios
Year: 2012
US Rating: Unrated / R for Some Language and Some Brief Violent Material
Film Length: Theatrical 87 Minutes / Unrated 96 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 – Enhanced for Widescreen TVs – 1080p High Definition
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese



Release Date: January 29, 2013

Review Date: January 27, 2013


Please don’t hurt me…


The Film: 3.5 out of 5


It has been a few years since Katie disappeared with Hunter, her nephew (at the end of Paranormal Activity 2) and now, some distance from where the paranormal events took place, a new family has moved into a nice suburban neighborhood. Alex, a teenage girl attempts to introduce herself to the family, a mother and son, but they don’t seem quite right. One night, the mother of the home is taken away and the young boy, Robbie, is taken in by Alex and her family. Alex’s young brother, Wyatt, befriends the unusual young boy and it isn’t long before the calm of their suburban life is interrupted by activity which cannot be explained.


Each of the Paranormal Activity films use the “found footage” exclusively in their approach (though it plays less and less like that as the films progress), yet the common complaint of nausea from the shaky movements of the camera are largely avoided thanks to the plot which has one of the central figures of the story setting up cameras throughout the house to capture whatever has piqued their curiosity (or paranoia). It works. Ever since the original Paranormal Activity, this method of movie making has been surprisingly capable of lulling audiences into states of calm – with periods of normalcy and perhaps mundane routine - before upping the tension complete with a rumble of the audio to help nudge them into an unsettled mood. I’ve said this before, but there’s a mosaic quality to the narrative that works not only to catch audiences off-guard but pieces things together with the air of recovered footage assembled for discovery. Expanding the ways in which footage is captured – adding webcams from laptops, helps sell that dynamic.


This fourth outing shows signs of wearing out its welcome, especially if audience reaction is a worthy judge. Sitting in fourth place on both the domestic and the international gross chart, Paranormal Activity 4 grossed only around half of what the previous entry scared up and only two thirds of the second outing. That’s a worrisome sign despite the high return on investment for Paramount. However, the model upon which this surprise franchise has been built is to be applauded and no doubt still has enough life and interest left in it to be a fixture at the October release schedule for a couple more years. From a micro budget beginning to, comparatively, a mini-budget, these films are incredibly simple and still highly effective in drumming up the scares.


Throughout the franchise the performances have been impressively natural, a product of scripts that serve as outlines and the actors given space to improvise within the parameters of the moments they are playing out. That continues here with a strong turn by Kathryn Newton (Gary Unmarried) and a likeably light showing by Matt Shively as her plutonic friend, Ben. The parents this time around are played by Alexondra Lee and Stephen Dunman (The Mummy), married in real life. Sadly, Stephen Dunham passed away shortly before the film premiered. The two young actors playing Wyatt and Robbie are fine in their roles. CODE WORD: Unsettled


Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and writer Christopher Landon continue to expose and reveal the backstory behind the paranormal activity, though the inching out of revelations (mainly in the closing minutes of the last two films) risks turning (and in many ways has turned) off fans who are either more inclined to simply care about the jumps and scares, or who have notions of their own for what’s behind the activity. The closing moments of the film don’t disappoint in raising the goose bumps, but at this point it’s hardly a surprise ending and hardly fresh ground. Something brand new is a must for any new entry if this franchise is to outlast the franchise it deposed from the theatrical throne.



The Video:  4 out of 5


Paranormal Activity 4 is presented in 1080p High Definition and is framed in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. As with others in the franchise, the image is solid. The web-cam footage is of better quality than any web-cam I have used, but it serves the viewing all-the-better. Night shots are either bathed in moonlight blue or the algae green of the X-Box Kinect motion sensors (which show up in night-mode on cameras apparently).



The Sound: 4 out of 5


Paranormal Activity 4 arrives on Blu-Ray comes with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Again, as with the other entries, the majority of the movie is dedicated to conversations between the main characters and is focused in the center channel. A low rumble that shows up to assist the scares and chills broods healthily in the low range and in the .1 channel though the general audio is as much about its silence as its sounds. This release handles it nicely.




The Extras: 2 out of 4


Disc One

Theatrical Version and Unrated Extended Version with an Additional 9 Minutes


The Recovered Files (HD): Around thirty minutes of scenes cut from the film, many are effective and provide additional exposition and character interactions.


Teaser Trailer (HD)


Disc Two

DVD version of the Theatrical and Unrated film, plus a Digital Copy of the Theatrical Version: For use with your iPod, Mac, and PC.


Final Thoughts


Fans were not as impressed with Paranormal Activity 4 as they were with the previous entries. The third entry was particularly lauded for sharing an origin story of sorts, heading back to the late 80’s to give us a glimpse into how it all started for Katie and family. It was a refreshing redirect and another reason audiences seem to have fallen out of favor with part four. Complaints of the scares – familiar retreads of how things have gone down in the three previous films – aren’t wrong, but the general sentiment is a harsher reflection than what you’ll actually find here. It may be treading water, creatively, but the jolts and jumps can be just as effective and the additional nine minutes seem to help the picture do its job a little better than what was shown in theaters but there are still precious few answers and questions hanging in the wind.

Overall Score 3.5 out of 5


Neil Middlemiss

Kernersville, NC




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#2 of 8 Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 27 2013 - 03:49 PM

We have three copies of Paranormal Activity 4 on Blu-ray to give away to lucky HTF members. To enter send an email to contest 'at' hometheaterforum.com with the code word in the subject line, and you user name, full name and address in the body of the email. The word can be found hidden in Neil's official HTF review at the top of this thread. Winners must have a US or Canadian shipping address, be over 18 and a member of HTF. The winner will be drawn at random from all emails received with the correct code word in the subject line. Contest runs through Monday 2/4/13. Good luck!



#3 of 8 MattAlbie60

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Posted January 29 2013 - 02:30 AM

I think the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise is in way better shape than the SAW one was at this point. That said, the PA franchise isn't exactly in the best of shape. The last two in particular are kind of overstaying their welcome.

#4 of 8 Russell G

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Posted January 29 2013 - 05:32 AM

I didn't hate this one, but it was certainly not as good as the previous films. My problem with the series is that it's gotten so convoluted that it no longer really makes sense. Especially in comparing the endings of this one and the third. My hope is that PA5 will skip the webcam in a house thing and be a faux documentary of investigators trying to solve the case. Manley so they can spell out all of these dumb connections between the movies that don't really make any sense.


I agree with MattAlbie60 though, this series on the whole is much better then Saw. The first Saw was pretty great, and each sequel took a sharp downturn in awfulness and stupidity. Just piss poor writing all around.



#5 of 8 MattAlbie60

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Posted January 29 2013 - 06:17 AM

I thought the brilliance in the beginning part of the series was its simplicity. These last two have just bogged the mythology down to an incredible degree and seem to desire only to leave things off with a big question mark that, it appears, they don't actually have any intention of answering. Unless yeah, PA5 or something turns out to be a documentary or is in some other format that allows for more than a few minutes of plot advancement per year.

#6 of 8 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted January 29 2013 - 07:18 AM

Originally Posted by MattAlbie60 

I thought the brilliance in the beginning part of the series was its simplicity. These last two have just bogged the mythology down to an incredible degree and seem to desire only to leave things off with a big question mark that, it appears, they don't actually have any intention of answering.

Unless yeah, PA5 or something turns out to be a documentary or is in some other format that allows for more than a few minutes of plot advancement per year.

My vote is for the team that have been documenting the exploits of the staff at Dunder Mifflin make inroads into paranormal documentary filmmaking - now THAT would be worth heading to the cinema to see Posted Image


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#7 of 8 Adam Gregorich

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Posted February 16 2013 - 09:14 AM

Congrats to: Radioman970, tyler3190, and MattAlbie60. Look for them to go out this week!



#8 of 8 Radioman970

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Posted February 21 2013 - 08:40 AM

Exciting! Haven't seen this yet. But it might be like Groovie Ghoulies compared to the week I've had at work. :P Happy to be a winner...
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