WARNING: Don’t read this late at night. Or alone. Or if you are sensitive to spirits who might be lurking over your shoulder. The Paranormal Activity franchise wants to feel real: the cameras are fuzzy, the houses are messy, and the actors look like people you’ve seen at the mall. But how realistic are the actual hauntings? Movies.com consulted Stephen Robinson, a cameraman who searched for spirits in 26 countries for the reality show Ghost Hunters International. He’s an expert in how to shoot the supernatural—so does he think Paranormal Activity 4 gets it right?
Movies.com: Can cameras really record ghosts?
Stephen Robinson: Yes, cameras can record paranormal activity—it’s hard to say “ghosts”—but paranormal activity for sure. You’ll see faces, outlines of figures. Sometimes they’ll seem well-defined, other times you’ll see reflections and shadows, which is what they call “matrixing.” Then there’s orbs, but a lot of times those turn out to be dust. Full manifestations—moving and clearly defined—are very rare. I don’t know anyone who’s been able to catch a real and true ghost like the kind you’d think of, but they can catch unexplained things for sure.
Movies.com: There’s a cat and a dog in the Paranormal 4 house, and at times they both seem freaked out. Are they susceptible to seeing spirits?
Robinson: Animals are just like children: they’re more sensitive to paranormal activity. We’ve actually used dogs a few times. There’s been situations where animals won’t go into certain rooms—they’ll sit there and bark. Dogs seem to be more sensitive than cats in my experience. Cats just aren’t even tripping. Some lady said her bird just kept saying the name of someone who didn’t live there, but I was like, “Is that really evidence?”