Paranormal Activity 3

26 Nov

Title: Paranormal Activity 3
Year: 2011
Directors: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Writer: Christopher Landon, based on the film by Oren Peli
Starring: Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Christopher Nicholas Smith
MPAA Rating: R, some violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use
Runtime: 84 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%


Now that the Saw movies are gone, we obviously need another horror franchise to produce a new entry like clockwork every year around Halloween time. Fortunately, the Paranormal Activity team is more than up to the task as they have proven for the third straight October, with Paranormal Activity 3 again being made for a measly $5 million budget and having already grossed close to $200 million, thanks to a monster opening weekend that set the all-time record for an October release. So yes, don’t expect these films to stop coming out any time soon. And, you know what? I’m all for it, because these films are not just money-making cows, they’re actually pretty damn solid horror films, too.

The original Paranormal Activity of course was a huge phenomenon, made for just $15’000 and grossing over $190 million, it presented us with this “found footage” movie about a couple being haunted by a supernatural presence that inhabited their home. That film was tremendously effective, the low-budget effect and overall look to the film added a lot to how scary it was, and had you at the edge of your seat for its entirety. The second one was released last year, and I gave it a B grade, a respectable one for any sort of sequel I think, and even though that one didn’t cover any new ground that was missed by the first one it showed that all you need is a spooky premise and that alone can work like gangbusters for a lot of films to come.

Same thing goes for this third go-round, this is still a sequel that uses most of the tricks the first one did, so I guess the result of them isn’t as scary as it was the first time you saw them. But those scares are still so effective you can be sure that they still work damn well in this one, and I actually pride myself in knowing that I don’t scare easy with horror films, so when I tell you that Paranormal Activity 3 is a really good film to get you all riled up and tense and get a few scares out of, I’m actually telling the truth. And that actually made me realize one thing, that it’s a good thing that this franchise doesn’t try to totally change what’s been a proven success for them. I mean, look at how Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 turned out because of that, it sucked, and the other hand this is a franchise that’s smart enough to know that its effective combination of mockumentary style with naturalistic performances and amping up the scares little by little works extremely well for them, so they stick by it.

That’s not to say that the films are all exactly the same as the previous one, because that wouldn’t be true, the fact that they all use some new tricks and work their way to create some sort of mythology to the world surrounding the house is good enough for us to care about this as a good horror franchise, so long as they stay true to their roots. And in what I thought was a smart move to do just that, the studio got Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman to share directing duties. That’s a smart move because instead of going for some more veteran director they got the guys that brought us Catfish last year (I gave that one a B), the film that was a really smart documentary about the dangers of potentially embarking on an online relationship. That film of course sparked controversy about whether it was real or if it was just a really ingenious fluke, so the two seemed poised to make a film that pretended it was based on true events, and they’re very good at doing exactly what worked before well, and adding a few new tricks of their own along the way, proving with this one that they weren’t just the stunt artists some suggested they were after Catfish.

This third time around we get a prequel, as the sisters we know from the first two films delve into some old VHS tapes that see their childhood memories from 1988, a time that was alluded to in the first two films of the franchise. So we see how the two little girls, their mom and their stepdad were tormented all those years ago, and it just so happens that the dad films weddings for a living so he has all of these cameras at the ready to set up and record when the disturbances start happening. There’s this awesome little touch that Mr. Joost and Mr. Schulman exploit to awesome effect that sees one of these cameras being put into one of those rotating fans that faces the kitchen and the dining room as it makes its continuous rotation, so we get to see stuff happening and then we get out of the frame and our imagination does the rest, that was just a really neat trick in my opinion.

The verdict is as plain as simple as this: if you liked the two previous Paranormal Activity flicks, you’re bound to find this one just as good. If you didn’t like the first two, then go ahead and avoid this one because it’s essentially just the same thing. This is a really sharp horror film though, one that has this really nice energy to it, that knows damn well what its strengths are and exploits them for our entertainment. Yes, of course there are some holes in the logic at the very core of these films, but that’s part of these films, you can’t hold it against them, and if you do you might as well stop now because these will be coming your way for many Halloween’s to come.

Grade: B


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