Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s ‘Paranormal Activity 4’, their second franchise-extender, is almost as comatose as its 15-year-old heroine, Alex (Kathryn Newton), sparked out on sleeping pills courtesy of her concerned mother. Alex has been insomniac ever since creepy neighbour kid Robbie (Brady Allen) came to stay in her parents’ house. As captured on built-in laptop cameras placed strategically about the house, Robbie wanders around the house at night, talking to an invisible friend, or conspiring in whispers with Alex’s younger brother, Wyatt. It’s been five years since Katie and her sister’s son Hunter vanished, so is Robbie the missing boy?
The product placement in ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ is cynical and distracting, and the only visual innovation the directors can come up with is quickly overused – a living room transformed into a galaxy of pinpricks illuminated by an Xbox’s motion-sensor field. The scares are repeats of familiar scenes, the signposted ‘twist’ is barely worth its name, and the inevitable manifestation of Katie (Katie Featherston) comes way too late to save the day. This is a film content to float on a pool of stagnant ideas: it can’t even be bothered to tread water.