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'Paranormal Activity 4': Teenage angst

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Paranormal Activity 4

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"Paranormal Activity 4" is a return to the franchise's continuity after flashing back to the sisters' origins in the third installment, who were the subject of "Paranormal Activity" one and two. We're back in the timeline to determine what happened to Hunter and Katie from the second film.

But before we get that far, we see the terror of demonic possession through fresh eyes: attractive teenager Alex (Kathryn Newton) lives in Henderson, Nevada with mother Holly (Alexondra Lee), father Doug (Stephen Dunham), and little brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). Alex is fond of video chatting with her "only a friend" Ben (Matt Shively) who is smart enough to keep his mouth shut when Alex frequently shares video of herself in her underwear.

When strange kid Robbie (Brady Allen) befriends next door neighbor Wyatt, things take a turn for the weird. Mysterious noises, telekinesis, and signs of witchcraft abound. Or to put it another way, they don't call this "Paranormal Activity" for nothing.

The strangers across the street are up to no good, of course. Alex tries to get everyone to believe her, but since she's a teenager with an awful mom, this is a difficult thing to do. One after another the people in her limited circle of family fail her, which eventually leads to a much broader conspiracy of witches. It's a lot like the evolution of the "Halloween" series in which Michael Myers goes from lone psycho killer to a demonic sacrificing machine operating at the behest of a cult.

The big twist in this film is technology, the use of Xbox 360's Kinect motion sensor to show ghosts (or not show them as the case may be). Much of the video recording is from a laptop's point of view, which would be later used successfully in the "V/H/S" series.

Although not as thrilling as the first three installments, "Paranormal Activity 4" knows the right buttons to push to terrify parents of young children. Everyone else will likely be less impressed.

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