Paranormal Activity 3
By adam chaffin
October 21, 2011
When reviewing a film such as Paranormal Activity 3, as with most films, I try and be as objective as possible. However, the “demonic possession” type of movie sends chills down my spine more than other specialty horror sub-genres. Even while writing this review, I am looking over my shoulder, seeing things out of the corner of my eye and the hair is standing on ends on my arms.
"Found footage" faux documentary flicks are nothing new to the average moviegoer, and to many have been played out. However, chances are that if you fancy the first two installments of the Paranormal franchise, then you will enjoy this entry as much, if not more. The surprises, jolts and jump-out-of-your-seat moments sprinkled throughout this film make it worthwhile for the camp of the Paranormal.
The plot of the film is basically the same as the previous two films, with the exception of being a prequel taking place in 1988. The story tells the tale of how Kate and Kristi (Chloe Cserngey and Jessica Tyler Brown) became targets of a sinister and invisible monstrosity to begin with. The children think they've discovered a ghost in their midst named Toby. The girls' mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), just believes it to be an imaginary friend, nothing more than a passing phase. But her photographer boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), thinks it's something more after catching a glimpse of "the unknown" after reviewing a video. He then begins to set up cameras throughout the house to see if he can capture any other type of activity. What he records over time reveals the groundwork for all the terror to come.
Over the next 90 minutes, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (directors of the controversial 2010 documentary Catfish), bring a fresh prospective to this funhouse spook-fest. The sisters are somewhat creepy in the vein of the twins in The Shining. They have an innocence in which we want them to stay protected, yet we never feel they are truly ever in harm’s way, which actually makes it even more chilling. What sets apart this entry, from the previo
us two is some clever camera work and more of the “activity” the series is named for. Part of the invention of that is due to the homemade panning contraption that Dennis sets up to capture video by mounting a camera on a rotating fan. It makes PA3, somewhat of a “Where’s Waldo,” scanning the screen for something out of place or the slight movement of an object that shouldn’t be moving.
The camera, playing with motion in and out of the frame, has been the series’ trademark, and that’s no exception here. We are anticipating the unknown things from our childhood closet about to come for us. The film plays on our worst fears of the dark and things that go bump in the night. Our imagination creates many of the jolts, jumps and chills, because a lot of the scares are of our making, playing right into the film's hands. [SPOILER ALER: It should be noted that PA3 has a little more to do with the occult than the previous two. It also deals with demonic possession, contains profanity and has more sexuality than the other films, so take the R rating seriously if those things offend.]
Although I enjoyed the film, it begins to unravel during the final act. I won’t give anything away, but the invention, wit, suspense and chills were somewhat lost and buried within the conclusion. Despite being mindlessly basic, PA3’s approach is fresh, especially considering it’s the third in the series. It delivers the "gotcha" moments with a certain subtlety and brio. Minimum on gore and high on scares, it should satisfy your Halloween craving for a few spook-house thrills.
Adam Chaffin is a young filmmaker, actor and radio show host currently living in DC metro area. Follow www.twitter.com/virginiarunning.