Oct 22, 2014

Review: Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Paranormal Activity 2 did something that very few horror sequels manage to do; be a competent movie. In fact, it was just a little bit better than competent if you ask me. It may not explore anything all that new, but it added some bells and whistles to the formula that were very effective in creating some scares. That mainly being the use of multiple cameras showing more than one room in the Rey household.

Now it's more than easy to be completely skeptical of Paranormal Activity 3. It's a true prequel compared to Paranormal Activity 2 which is more of a prequel and "midquel" at the same time. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman take the helm of this installment, both who had just come off success with their documentary Catfish. The results are honestly surprising.

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Genre: horror
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Produced by: Jason Blum, Oren Peli, Steven Schneider, etc.
Written by: Christopher Landon
Music by: N/A
Running time: 93 minutes
Production company: Paramount Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Solana Films, etc.
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures, United International Pictures, Central Partnership, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $5,000,000
Box office: $207,039,844 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Lauren Bittner, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Hallie Foote, Dustin Ingram, Johanna Braddy, Katie Featherston, Brian Boland, Sprague Grayden, William Juan Prieto, Jackson Xenia Prieto, Paitoon Cheng

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Synopsis


In this Paranormal Activity installment, we rewind to 1988 when both Katie (Katie Featherston) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden) were younger. They live with their mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her live-in boyfriend Dennis. (Chris Smith) Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) begins interacting with an invisible friend named Toby. That marks the beginning of strange things going on inside the house such as bumps and other phenomena which prompts Dennis to set up cameras around the house to capture what's going on.

Review


Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman seem to take their goal of making a good found footage movie quite literally. We're made to think that we're watching a VHS tape that has aged over time. So what we're watching appears to have degraded in quality which unfortunately can become a bit distracting. Over time the effect disappears however, a bit inexplicably. Perhaps because someone would begin the movie many times before chickening out before things got scary? Could be no? Anyhow, it's part of the style and it suits me fine.

Now there are some jump scares in this one, but most of them are passes. The way in which Paranormal Activity 3 develops is definitely as a slow burner like its predecessors. It just seems to insist on including some jump scares so no one gets bored. I'd prefer a real slow burn, but it's not like the jump scares we get are of low quality or anything. They'll make you jump and feel uneasy no problem.

Like Paranormal Activity 2, PA3 brings a different kind of camera use and man is it awesome. Imagine a camera, but on the base of a small rotating floor fan. The camera basically cycles between the kitchen and the living room of the house which gives a great opportunity to have weird things happening on one side, unbeknownst to the person on the other side. It's simple but absolutely brilliant in creating some really, really scary and tense moments.

The script also brings forth some other really scary moments, most notably a Bloody Mary scene which is pure terror to me. There definitely isn't a lack of scary material here and quite a bit of it does seem pretty fresh. Some of the scares are rehashes of previous movies in the series but honestly there isn't much that falls in that category. One thing that's interesting is how there seems to be less of a focus on making the viewer desperately scan for anything weird going on during the night. Scary stuff just happens like that, whether characters are asleep or awake.

Paranormal Activity 3 isn't perfect though. The story does seem to get a bit more convoluted in order to give some reasons for everything and some of the characters are pretty boneheaded. It's mainly Dennis who falls into that category. His inaction over the strange behaviour of Kristi all caught on camera is inexplicable. Even his employee Randy (Dustin Ingram) is a bit of a dolt for getting involved in things he shouldn't despite knowing that something's wrong. There's definitely more, but I'll say that I thought Jessica Tyler Brown did a great job as the young Kristi.

It's astounding that Paranormal Activity 3 doesn't fall into the category of boring and needless horror sequels. There's enough new stuff in PA3 that is truly scary and original to make it another good entry in the Paranormal Activity series. It's not every day you get two good sequels to a good original, especially when dealing with horror movies. Despite never having directed a horror movie before, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman prove that they have what it takes to do so, even with a series that's already established.


Rating


6.5/10