Paranormal Activity 3 continues the low budget horror series created by Oren Peli. The new chapter is a prequel, taking us back to the ’80s, where we learn where, how and why Katie’s haunting started. Critically-acclaimed Catfish filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman direct what could very well be the best Paranormal Activity yet.
We’re taken back to footage of Katie’s life before the “demon”. Her mother’s live-in boyfriend is a freelance videographer and editor who stumbles upon some strange aberrations in a home video, which leads him to investigate the phenomena to the point of no return.
This origin story is a rewind to the ’80s, an era when the horror genre was becoming increasingly popular with Stephen King, John Carpenter and Wes Craven bombarding pop culture with iconic horror. It’s the perfect setting, taking many back to their childhood and dressing the set in a state of memory decay with wicker prams, rocking horses, old dolls and teddy bears.
Horror survives on suspense, creepiness, shock, fear, the grotesque and the unknown. Paranormal Activity 3 embodies them all. There may not be much in the way of gore, but let’s not forget this horror is about what goes bump in the night. The suspense is escalated in classic Paranormal Activity style as strange occurrences become more apparent and more regular.
Bringing children to the forefront was also a masterstroke and a convention that has become synonymous with horror, built on classics like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. Even the focus on sisters is a borderline cliche in the wake of films like The Shining and A Tale of Two Sisters, but the innocence of childhood corrupted by evil never seems to grow old.
Another fantastic element that the Catfish filmmakers have delved into is the concept of an imaginary friend. Once again, an echo of Danny in The Shining, it’s an idea that still frightens us… to think that children may be inviting something into our homes that doesn’t exist or even worse, something that does.
Low budget horror may not have the slick production values or name actors of Hollywood blockbuster horror, but the loose ends taunt us with possibility and the grade forgoes special effects by harnessing the power of imagination. Paranormal Activity 3 finds a good balance, down-scaling the action in favour of quality over quantity when it comes to scary “how did they do that?” effects.
As with the previous movies, the cast is relatively unknown. Paranormal Activity 3 is taken from the perspective of Dennis played by Christopher Nicholas Smith, the live-in boyfriend and freelance editor, who becomes obsessed with the haunted home. Chloe Csengary stars as young Katie opposite Jessica Tyler Brown as her sister, Kristi. While their young mom, Julie, is played by Lauren Bittner.
Paranormal Activity 3 is more interested in portraying authentic reality cinematography, despite the ensemble’s natural, convincing performances. The camera eye is more focused on happenings, atmosphere and striking the right tone. Fixed tripod cameras monitor bedrooms, a makeshift fan camera pans the living space between the dining room and kitchen while a handheld camera links the scenes.
Paranormal Activity 3 is a pensive game of cat-and-mouse, stringing the viewer along, mounting the tension and then pouncing when we least expect it. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman know how to build suspense and even make allowance for a couple of prank scares to relieve and unsettle us.
It’s the sort of movie you’ll want to cover your eyes for, the sort of fright fest where screams are intermittent and the kind of horror that makes you think twice about sleeping in an empty house all on your own. If you loved the first Paranormal Activity and were less impressed by Paranormal Activity 2, part three will meet and surpass your expectations. Based on the opening weekend success of the third movie, Paranormal Activity 4 is already being primed for 2014.
The bottom line: Spine-tingling
Release Date: Now Showing
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