Paranormal Activity 3 (15)
Dir. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Reviewed by Matt Adcock - read a version of this review over at the rather lovely CULTURE SLAP
It Runs In The Family…
First came Paranormal Activity back in 2009 (although made in 2007) – which told the unhappy tale of a young, middle class couple who move into a suburbia only to be disturbed by a presence that may or may not be somehow demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially when they sleep. Or try to. It was big hit making nearly $200,000,000 from its $15,000 budget.
So it was not much of a surprise when Paranormal Activity 2 came along in 2010 and made things go ‘bump’ in the night all over again. This time more inexplicable and strange incidents occur due to the house possibly being possessed by a demonic entity, like duh... haven’t we already been to this party? Still it does what it sets out to do in a decent enough fashion.
Now you’re invited back to 1988, to find out how the spooky paranormal activity all started… Meet the two young sisters Katie and Kristi as children (who we’ve met as grown ups in Paranormal Activity 1 & 2). Here in part 3 we find that the girls befriended a sinister invisible entity who resides in a cupboard their home – and that their granny might just be a bit more sinister than the average!?
Yes prequels can be a minefield for film franchises – especially when they have dedicated fan bases (Phantom Menace anyone!?) so it is quite a brave move to go back and detail spooky origin of the big bucks making Paranormal Activity series. Fortunately the job has been given to Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, whose made the excellent ‘Catfish’, these are directors who know how to manipulate their audience and have proven themselves adept at using hand held camera footage to tell a good story.
We join young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) as their interaction with a malignant force called um 'Toby' starts freaking out their mum Julie (Lauren Bittner) and stepdad Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith). He does what any loving step-father would and immediately sets up multiple cameras in his daughters bedrooms / and through their house - which I'm sure many mothers might not be very keen on their other half doing. But we let it go here because it's kind of essential to the plot etc.
As before the ‘activity’ builds up slowly and the directors throw in some good cheap jump moments just to keep the audience on side – but where the first two films are all about the build up and then 5 minutes of loopiness at the climax, PA3 works up a bit more ‘bump’ for your buck and goes utterly nuts for a disturbing ending that is certainly the most satisfying of the series so far!
There are some really nice touches throughout though which tie the films together such as towards the beginning of the film, Julie takes a picture of young Kristi standing in the driveway. That same photo being taken appears in both Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 as an indication that the demon has started haunting them. The video camera / night vision gimmick might be a bit old hat now but PA3 at least mixes it up a bit with a back-and-forth camera affixed to a motorised fan mechanism which lets you see things / half glimpse stuff and then pan back to do a full reveal...
If you felt a bit peeved at the endings of Kill List or The Last Exorcism then you might have a beef with PA3 too – but I personally liked the way that the demonic activity was attributed back to its human meddling roots and the screening I saw this at were screaming when the very nasty finale hit home!
"Hmmm another plot joiner across the 3 movies"
As a Christian I'm always interested to see how filmmakers depict the spiritual powers (both good and evil) and Paranormal Activity 3 drops in some interesting demonic elements. It should serve as a bit of a warning not to dabble in the occult too...
Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:
4 – don’t mess with the occult (but if you do at least make sure you have a video camera to hand!)
Awesomeness öööö – you’ll jump in places, scream in others
Laughs ö – not very funny
Horror öööö – a demon is for life, not just for a single movie
Babes ööö – the home sex tape effort is different
Spiritual Enlightenment öö – the powers of darkness are NOT your friends