Creepy and frustrating in equal measures, the latest in a hit franchise directed (now for the second time) by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (their Catfish has inspired an upcoming MTV series) has some suitably moody visual subterfuge to go along with a little gimmicky obfuscation.
Paranormal Activity 4 (which chronologically occurs a few years after the second movie) opens with what regular Katie Featherston did to her sister Kristi's family, and, subsequently in turn, to her nephew.
Now, this new deceptive, incongruous entry focus on a new family, teenaged Alice (Kathryn Newton) and her silly beau Alex (Matt Shively). They use Skype hookups and laptops to monitor the happenings in the home once her unbeknownst parents watch a spooky Robbie (Brady Allen) who has lived across the street with his mother (a pretty solid Featherston) who is undergoing medical testing.
Perhaps some of the good things about what its tagline infers "all the activity has been leading to this" is what might leave some of the faithful peeved thinking that its makers are resting too much on their laurels (or not able to come up with a way to broaden the concept that Joost and Schulman advantageous used to chilling effect in their first 'prequel' foray).
Those into today's technology will like how the XBox Kinect and smart phones play a role in the increasing eeriness as Newton and a joking Shively make a favorable, diverting pair apparently not able to look at their footage. Allen ably etches a Robbie that doesn't come on too strong and Tommy Miranda is decent as Alice's younger brother Jackson.
Within its 'unique special features' Paranormal Activity 4 finds a way to exact the kind and quantity of edgy moments that should keep its devotees from restlessness (though wondering why Alice is the focus of much foreboding attention). If the spectral lore this time around doesn't have a pervading persuasive presence like an occult connection to Katie and her sister (and getting more out of an infrared camera and pixels from the XBox) at least there is some amusing satirical counterpoint to the noticeable absence of passing on important sinister dailies.