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Paranormal Activity 4 Serves Up Enough Spooks for a Satisfying Sequel

Paranormal Activity 2 was a parallel prequel to the original film, where we learned of the attachment of the male son to the demonic activity, and Paranormal Activity 3 was a prequel to both, where we saw why Katie was possessed and the activity's tie to a coven.

The first and the third movies have the best overall ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, with the latest release opening much lower than its predecessors.

But for fans of the series, it's not a complete dud.

The fourth installment begins in a nice big suburban house in Henderson, Nev., which adds some extra fun to the possession angle as this is the city where President Obama prepped for that debate. Creepy kid Robbie, in a ranch house across the street hidden behind an iron gate, keeps wandering over to the nice suburban house and its backyard treehouse.

After pulling a few crisis strings, Robbie manages to get a bed at the nice big suburban house, which is occupied by one of those couples who sit across from each other at Denny's and don't speak (to lift the immortal line from Singles), their teenage daughter Alex, and 6-year-old son Wyatt.

Creepy little Robbie, complete with socks-and-Birkenstocks, unpacks his 100-year-old toys and a "special fork" -- which should've been the first clue for the family to get the newcomer a babysitter and a hotel room. Enter the same invisible friend from the third installment, and weird things start happening in the house.

It's not so much handycam this time around but more webcam. And the setting up of the cams, including tinkering with an infrared device, is a plausible scenario for teen Alex and her boyfriend Ben considering all of the ghost-hunting cable shows in the present day, when the movie is set.

The good news for filmgoers is that all of the spooky moments aren't blown by the previews or trailer. And pieces fit together a little bit more, just as in the other sequels. I enjoyed it, and not just because I was the only person in the theater at a 9:45 a.m. showing. It's not especially original and won't pack the initial Peli punch, but the series still manages to be entertaining without the frills employed in many modern horror flicks.

The bad news for Paramount, which has learned new things about profit margins from this series, is that a fifth installment may be a bridge too far. But if you sat through and enjoyed the first four, you'd probably go see a fifth one, too. And Peli will be banking on that next Halloween as well.


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