I’d seen the first 2 PAs, skipped the 3rd one, and watched the first half of your review before deciding to go check out PA4 myself. I too enjoyed the first two, and to my surprise, I actually found the 4th one to be good, or at least better than you made it out to be.
To address some points in your review…
First, I got the sense that Pervy McCreeperson was supposed to be in the 15-17 year old age range as opposed to in his 20s. Yes, the actor playing him was older (obviously) but it seemed to me like he was the typical upperclassman boyfriend you see so many dads of hot teenage girls have to deal with. I felt like the party he and the daughter had kind of established they were classmates, so I didn’t feel like he was as Pervy McCreepy as you did, especially considering there was never any evidence of physical intimacy between him and the daughter, just a lot of goofy attempts to get her to show some boob in cyber sessions.
I did not find the Xbox Connect thing as annoying as you did. Yes, people probably don’t have their Xbox’s on constantly, so this required a bit of suspension of disbelief, however I got past this pretty quick once the movie established what it was and how it worked. I actually thought it was pretty creative once you started to see the ghost in the dots, and then later when Katie starts showing up out of nowhere and the dots camouflage her appearance.
About the Macbooks, this didn’t seem like an issue to me because the daughter has one, and she gave her old mac to her little brother, then the mom has one which she keeps in her kitchen that she uses for recipes but it also seems like the whole family can use it when they need to. The camera in the living room is a hidden camera with nightvision, and not a macbook. So really, there are only 3 macbooks in use in the house, one of which is a hand-me-down to the younger kid, so I don’t see that as being out of the realm of reality, since families usually have a computer for the adults and then the kids get their own for school and such.
There are also programs that auto-record your skype and facetime chats, so that wasn’t too far fetched, however you are correct that it doesn’t work that way in real life as it does in the movie. First of all, you’d have to set the program up to autorecord your chats, and it would only do so as long as you’re connected to a call, so the idea that they forgot to log out of a chat and he just recorded the daughter sleeping without her knowing that her computer was still broadcasting was very much stretching believably. I think this might have worked better if they’d set up the home network and then discovered the footage that way. But whatever, this wasn’t a movie-ruining piece of plot hole for me.
When it comes to the flying knife gag, I actually thought that was a great piece of suspense because I kept waiting for it to drop, and the suspense of that happening was a killer for me. Every scene after that damn knife disappeared I was cringing, just waiting for it to impale someone. I think the thing about the mother not watching while she was chopping food was a conscious choice by the director because during that entire scene I kept waiting for her to cut herself, because that’s what I thought things were leading to. Then, once the knife levetated away, my suspense was brought to a whole new level. I don’t think you can actually say that this gag was flawed due to the daughter looked at the ceiling, because later, when the dad is at the computer, they made a point to tilt the camera towards the ceiling and show there was no knife up there, and later the knife fell from nowhere. This, to me, made it clear the knife had disappeared until this moment. There is evidence in the other movies that the demon (or whatever it is) is able to make stuff disappear and reappear at will (like the picture in the attic in the first movie, etc.), so to me, this was not a plot hole.
Your point about not being scared when people in the movie think the paranormal activity is cool is a bit unfounded. I know that me and the audience I saw the movie with were disturbed when those chairs moved, and when the kid said that it was cool, there was a bit of release with the humor of that moment. However, every PA movie has had characters who thought the demon activity was cool, so I don’t know how you can fault this movie for carrying this over into it. After all, this stuff IS cool until it becomes clear how dire the character’s situation is becoming.
I was actually surprised that the twist was that the kid Willis was actually Hunter. I can see the point in your argument that this twist doesn’t make any sense, since the other kid Robbie was set up to be Hunter early on, and there are an awful lot of logic leaps to buy into this concept. However, I felt like this twist made sense because of the explanation of how the spirit needs to possess a body. As explained in the movie, there needs to be some sort of sacrifice of a “pure spirit” before the possession can be completed, which obviously targeted the virginal teen daughter. So placing Hunter into adoption after the abduction from the second movie makes sense, considering that (1) the fourth movie takes place in Henderson Nevada while the others were in Carlsbad CA (hiding him in a different state with no living relatives to push tracking him down), and (2) there seems to be a large coven of witches involved, some of which probably played a role in placing Hunter with a family that fit their needs for the sacrifice. Now, this may be me making a huge leap in logic, but that’s what I thought while watching the film.
One of the reasons why Katie didn’t kill the family early on is it seems like Hunter had to “be ready” to make the sacrifice, which makes it seem like he had to give his blessing to kill the family before the sacrifice would actually mean anything and be part of the ritual. Sort of a like a symbolic “destruction of the heart,” where Hunter kills off the love and light the family brought to him in order to make room for the demon. You’ll notice Hunter struggled with this while Katie was coaxing him out of the closet. It wasn’t until Hunter gave in that the deaths began to occur. So there did seem to be some sort of “master plan” that involved Hunter having to be the one to make a conscious decision to destroy something he loved, which is a theme in these movies – the destruction of the family by a loved one to appease the demon.
I think the biggest and most glaring plot hole is that the daughter (I think her name is Alex) did not call the police the minute she found Pervy McCreeperson dead in her closet, and instead grabbed her video camera and ran to the neighbor’s house. That was definitely where the movie lost me. However, I find it difficult to think of how they could have possibly continued with the found footage motif for the climax any other way. The dad going over to the house to confront the woman taking his kid instead of calling the police wasn’t unbelievable, since people usually don’t get the police involved until all other options are exhausted, and the father didn’t know about the killings when he decided to go confront Katie. So that I can forgive. The stupidity of the daughter… not so much.
And yes, there were a lot of witches in that backyard, but it seemed like the backyard was completely dark, so a large gathering could take place in a gated yard without drawing too much attention. And Katie has indeed set it up that she seems able to teleport (or move extremely fast) in the other films. This is just the Michael Meyers/Jason Voorhees trope of appearing out of nowhere for convenient scares, so it doesn’t bother me all that much. I guess I just expect this type of thing from the monster in horror movies.
One scene which I thought was done well but also created a huge plot hole for the movie was when the daughter Alex was trapped in the garage and was slowly being suffocated by the car’s exhaust. I felt like this was a really well done and a well set up scene, but the aftermath was totally and completely mishandled. If I were a parent and my kid drove a car (without keys) through my garage door, and there was actually recorded FOOTAGE of the circumstances that lead to it happening, I would have reacted differently. In fact, the whole notion that so much creepy shit began to occur and Alex never bothered to check the recorded footage (which she set up specifically for that reason) was pretty infuriating. As you like to say – “Why didn’t she just show her parents the footage? Because… PLOT???” I guess the movie tried to justify this glaring lack in logic by setting up that she didn’t know how to access the footage without Pervy’s help, but she seemed pretty tech savvy and he explained to her (and the audience) pretty clearly how easy it was to log in and check the footage, so this seems like a weak cop-out to me.
And to nit-pick about the editing of the film, I tend to disagree with you. The PA movies have been pretty consistent in how they edit their “found footage,” so it’s always been choppy. However, I feel like it’s meant to evoke in-camera editing rather than an epileptic editor in post production, just to give it more of a found footage feel. Complaining about that is like complaining about slow motion in hong kong films or bitches and bling in rap videos. It just goes with the territory, so you gotta accept it and move on.
Other than that, I will agree this is the weakest of the franchise so far. However, I do like that they keep expanding on the mystery surrounding the hauntings with each film. I feel like Hunter is being set up as the coming of the antichrist, and his role will become more fleshed out as the series goes along. But I do think you’re spot on about this being the most well documented missing person story out there, lol. For this franchise to continue, I feel like they need to start expanding out of the “family in a house gets harrassed by evil spirit” trope and move towards something new. Maybe bring in a news crew or a Ghost Hunters reality show or something that can use the same found footage style, but justify it better and open up the scope more.