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The Ending Of Paranormal Activity 4 Explained

"Paranormal Activity 4" is when the "Paranormal Activity" series starts to get into trouble. 

While its predecessor "Paranormal Activity 3" was able to gain a fairly respectable 66% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, the fourth entry into the series comes in at 23%. Quite the drop. This hasn't been enough reason to stop the series, however. Since "Paranormal Activity 4," we've had no fewer than three further sequels. Some, like "The Marked Ones," would see a bit of an improvement in critical and audience response, while others, such as "The Ghost Dimension" would see a further slide.

Now, with another sequel on the way, and with word that it will be heavily connected to the series' overall lore, it seems appropriate to revisit the events of "Paranormal Activity 4" and see where they fit into the events of what is ultimately an enduring and fun found footage horror franchise.

Tobi's back

Alex and Ben agree that Robbie is more than a bit creepy. But when Robbie's mom is hospitalized, Doug and Holly let the little boy stay with them. The creepiness doesn't stop. In the middle of the night, Robbie enters Alex's bedroom and crawls into bed with her. Robbie also has an imaginary friend, who he calls Tobi. We've heard this name before, of course — or at least we have if we've watched "Paranormal Activity 3."

After catching some unexplained movements on camera — often with Robbie nearby, often in the middle of the night — Ben and Alex decide to set up webcams around the Nelsons' home. Around this time is when, inevitably, the strange occurrences start to increase. Balls rolling down stairs on their own, toys rearranging themselves into trails in the upstairs hallway. Alex is almost badly hurt by a falling chandelier while Robbie looks on. "He doesn't like you watching us!" Robbie shouts as he runs off.

Throughout all of this, Alex tries to talk to her parents about her concerns for Robbie. He is always around when weird things happen. Holly and Doug are dismissive.

Robbie's mom

That night, Alex is awoken by the sound of several cars pulling up in front of Robbie's house. Though she tries to investigate, she's scared off when someone in the yard approaches her. The next night Robbie "introduces" Wyatt to Tobi, and Alex catches him drawing odd symbols on Wyatt. Once again, in passing, we recognize one of the symbols: it is the Thaumaturgic Triangle, which, as we also learned in "Paranormal Activity 3," is connected to a coven seeking to provide a male heir for the demon Asmodeus. Ben and Alex, however, do not recognize it. But after watching back previous footage and finding it in the boys' sandbox, they look it up. They also discover that, for the possession ritual to work and for the demon to take over a boy's body, a virginal blood sacrifice is required.

By now, Robbie has been staying with the Nelsons for around a week. Books are falling off shelves by themselves. Kitchen knives are disappearing and reappearing. And Robbie has been caught several times on camera speaking to the invisible Tobi. On day eight, Robbie and Wyatt sneak out of the Nelsons' house and across the street to Robbie's home. Alex discovers them, and, sneaking into the neighbors' house, finally meets Robbie's mom. We recognize her too. It's Katie. She smiles and thanks Alex for taking care of her son.

My name's not Hunter!

Robbie is back home, but that doesn't stop weird things from happening at the Nelson household. Doors open and shut by themselves. The disappearing knife almost stabs Doug one night. And now Wyatt is speaking to invisible friends. We also discover that Katie had told Wyatt that he and Robbie have a lot in common — namely, both are adopted. 

Wyatt is adopted, as it turns out, but what confuses Alex is how Katie could have known that. It also throws into question what Katie could have meant when she said of Wyatt, "He looks just like his mom."

And here is the twist. This whole time, we have easily believed that Robbie is in fact the six-year-old Hunter. It's been hit home by the discovery that Katie is his mom. But now, we see Wyatt insisting to the invisible presence, likely Tobi, "My name's not Hunter!" The next day, Alex finds Wyatt in the play castle, moping. As he tells Alex — cryptically, ominously — Robbie has told him it's his time. More dangers follow. Alex levitates off her bed while she sleeps. A possessed Katie comes to the house to tell Wyatt she will wait for him. And Alex is trapped in the garage while the car comes to life on its own.

The sacrifice

With Alex and her father Doug out to dinner the next night, Katie returns to the house –- strangely without setting off any of the alarms or censors. Holly is killed when she is slammed against the ceiling by an unseen force. When Ben comes by to warn Alex of the coven, Katie snaps his neck. Returning home, Alex and Doug see Katie leading Wyatt away to her house, prompting Doug to follow them. After Alex discovers Ben's body in her room, she runs across the street to find her dad, just in time to see him dragged away and killed.

As she continues to search for Wyatt, Alex is found by a demonic Katie. Escaping through a window, she finds Wyatt, along with dozens of women wearing the triangle around their necks. Turning to run, she is knocked over by Katie as the footage cuts out.

Compared to its predecessor, "Paranormal Activity 4" adds less to the timeline's overall lore. It is less an effort to join together what had previously happened than to build on it. We already learned in "Paranormal Activity 3" that Tobi required a male to take on human form, thus answering why exactly Katie needed to kidnap Hunter in the second movie. Upon meeting Robbie, it would seem that this is what became of Hunter, before we discover that actually Wyatt has been Hunter all along.

What the movie doesn't definitively answer is how Hunter wound up in the care of another family entirely after being abducted by Katie. One possible answer is that the sacrifice, who we now know to be Alex, needs to be connected to him somehow. 

However, subsequent entries haven't confirmed this, so it remains a mystery. Maybe "Paranormal Activity: The Other Side" will finally bring answers.