Okay, now they're just making up stuff.

And that's fine. I guess. It's a spooky, suburbs-hating demon or ghost or whatever. It's not like we can force it to have a coherent plan. But if we're going to buy a ticket to watch it torment household appliances and possess the souls of an entire coven of damned-for-all-time soccer moms and select members of their juiceboxer spawn, then its creators might think about checking their game.

Because it ain't scary this time. Not much anyway. Not until the end. The waiting ritual of tension and silence that made the first and third installments such powerfully lo-fi experiences (I still have a crush on the oscillating fan camera and bedsheet ghost from PA3) is overused this time around and, with a few exceptional jolt-scares, never builds up momentum.

In fact, there's a pretty engaging teen relationship at the center of this film that actually outpaces the horror in terms of watchable entertainment. Oldest daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) senses that something's wrong at home now that her family has unwittingly taken in the creepy young son of their mysteriously missing neighbor, Katie (yep, that Katie, the one who throws people against walls until they die and who kidnapped her sister's baby at the end of PA2). Alex's boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) steps in with superior camera-rigging skills, all the while never letting Alex forget that the most important agenda item on his to-do list is her. Their banter is relaxed and friendly, their interactions lively, even in the midst of a neighborhood infestation of pure evil. This is because no matter what's going down at home, teenagers still just want to ignore everyone but themselves and go make out. But it's a bummer that their screen time winds up more compelling viewing than the nocturnal surveillance footage of kindergarteners and their invisible demon controllers. It should be the other way around, yet all the middle-of-the-night noises and levitating butcher knives play out as as the mundane, inevitable tolls on the freeway to hell. You can see them coming, you're prepped, you briefly toss them your attention and then you move on.

The slam-bang final sequence almost pulls it out, almost makes up for the lost time and the now rudderless and illogical plot, almost gets you excited for the fifth chapter. Almost. It's just tough to shake the feeling that nobody on the creative side knows or cares where this is going now, only that there will be more and more piles of money on top of more and more sequels comprised of whatever cheaply, half-assedly conceived cell phone footage they decide to toss our way.


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