Now it is brilliant for a horror film to deconstruct how various scenes and scares are carefully, deliberately designed in horror films to scare audiences regardless of context or even in the absence of any context. I'm convinced this is a one-off idea, though. Paranormal Activity 2 was basically a remake of the first film, with a slight twist in the end that explained the connections between the two films. Paranormal Activity 3 finally introduced the concept of a story and tried to build some mythology about demon-worshipping witch covens and in the minds of some viewers, departed from the series concept just for a generic backstory filled with generic horror film baddies.
Paranormal Activity 4 is a compromise between the original series concept and its newly inserted backstory. With a different family in a different house in a different town, our by now all-too-familiar paranormal hauntings occur once more when a mysterious newcomer to the neighbourhood is hurt and her eccentric young son is invited to stay over by their neighbours. The twist this time is how the teenager in the house wires up her family's improbably conveniently placed laptops around the house and night vision capable Kinect as the new 24-7 surveillance system. Of course, it's only a matter of time before series baddie Katie Featherstone shows up and our teenaged protagonists discover more about the demon-worshipping witch covens and their nefarious aims via Google Search.
Sadly, most of the scares seem to employ the concept that when teenagers yak to each other over their laptop cameras, they take up so much of the screen that any sudden movement is really startling and any sound is loud. This is the Parnormal Activity film with the highest amount of cheap scares that aren't so much scary as startling and annoying.
If we consider Paranormal Activity 3 with its introduction to the coven backstory as the real start of the series, it's no wonder that Paranormal Activity 4 feels like a Middle Film that's stuck with the unenviable role of leading up to the big showdown while delivering the same formula. That said, it's clear that the final film of this series will be really intense and frightening.