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Paranormal Activity 3 – Review

Paranormal Activity 3 – Review

Oct 24, 2011

reviewed by Danny
directed by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, 2011

I was very excited last year when previews revealed that the second Paranormal Activity was going to stick to the “found footage” formula of the first film and not take The Blair Witch Project approach of attempting to shift the franchise onto a more traditional horror film path.  And, though I didn’t find the film to be as intensely jump-inducing as the first film, Paranormal Activity 2 was a solid follow up which was a big hit with audiences if not with critics.  The huge box-office take meant we were nearly guaranteed a part three that stuck to the formula, and it has arrived, only two years after the nationwide release of the first film (but four years after the original began making the festival circuit in an effort to find a distributor).  Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel to the first two films that revolves around the two sisters from Paranormal Activity 2.  I was interested to see what the writers came up with to explain the events of the previous films, but my fear going in was simply that the “been there, done that” feeling would be overwhelming.  I need not have worried.  Handing over the directing reins to Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, directors of the intriguing “documentary” Catfish proves to be a good move as they manage to inject a fair amount of fresh ideas and energy into franchise.

Setting the film in the 1980s means we leave behind the multi-camera, full house (and even poolside) coverage of the second film.  Instead, Dennis, a wedding videographer, is forced to choose just a few locations to investigate the noises and strange happenings in the home he shares with his girlfriend, Julie, and her two young daughters, Katie and Kristi—the sisters from the second film who make a brief appearance early on to tie the event of that film to this one.  The film attempts to use Dennis’s obsession with finding out what is going on combined with his voyeuristic impulses to explain why there is always a camera filming, even in the most mundane moments.  It doesn’t work entirely.  There are times when you can’t help but wonder why he has the camera out.

The big innovation for the film comes from Dennis mounting one of his huge 80s video on the base of an oscillating fan.  The back and forth motion of the camera gives us a break from playing creepy Where’s Waldo with the images from the static camera, and there is simply a great tension waiting for the camera to swing back to something that was only hinted at on the previous pass.  This device is put to best use in a tense scene with a horror film staple, the babysitter.

There are more scares and jumpy moments here than in the first two films but the director’s manage to work them in without compromising the tension that comes with each jump cut to another camera position.  I watched this with a packed crowd and, if the screams and laughter were any indication, the formula is still working.

I’m happy to say that if you liked the first two films, you are almost guaranteed to like this one.  Even if you weren’t quite sold on those films, the improvements here might make Paranormal Activity 3 at least worth a rental.

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