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'Paranormal Activity 4' review: Nothing but leftovers

** (out of four)

Only you can say what scares you. The audience at tonight's "Paranormal Activity 4" screening didn't tell me what scares them, but if their consistent screams were converted into words, they'd translate to, "Yes, the image of people levitating or being suddenly yanked out of bed still freaks me out!"

Not me. What made "Paranormal Activity 3" such a step up from its two dull predecessors was that directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (taking over for part 3 after helming "Catfish") delivered more than just long lulls and loud noises--particularly in the most inspired, breathless bit, as a camera attached to an oscillating fan repeatedly, terrifyingly turned away from and then toward something sinister. Now, the directing team and writer Christopher Landon have officially run out of ideas.

The suspense-free "PA4," set in 2011 and picking up after Katie's (Katie Featherston) murderous rampage, is all red herrings and no catch of the day. The last thing the horror world needs is another movie with a potentially possessed kid (Brady Allen) and his imaginary friend. Also, chandeliers fall, a basketball bounces down the stairs and teenagers (Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively) try to figure out what's going on. There's a jolt when a knife eerily skyrockets off a counter and lands much later, in front of a different person. A question about that, though: If you suddenly couldn't find the knife you were using two seconds ago and then your spouse shouts that a knife just appeared out of nowhere, wouldn't you do more than just grumble about needing to go to bed?

That, and the story going nowhere this time around, may not bother you. The things that made you jump before may do so again. After all, every time I see a giant spider on a movie character, I tense. In the "Paranormal" world, the element of surprise still counts for something, and nothing in "PA4" surprised me as much as seeing a grown woman on the train after the movie eating Gushers. Remember those?

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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