By: Addison Wylie
The Paranormal Activity series is shaping up with each instalment. Sure, people may have considered the second film to be a let down and a rehash of the predecessor but the film’s are slowly but surely fitting into their own timeline. I love talking with friends about where certain events fit and how a movie marathon would work with these three Horrors.
When I saw Paranormal Activity 2 last year, I was fine with it. It didn’t do anything new, stayed safely within the confines of the movie’s blueprint, but it still managed to give me the heebie-jeebies. I claimed this was an acceptable move because Creator Oren Peli as well as studio heads probably wanted to make sure the fans still buy this set-up. The movie made big bucks; the point was easily made.
However, I didn’t want the third part for this Horror franchise to follow in the same steps. I’m fine with the filmmakers following the rules Peli has laid out but the ideas must be more creative in order for the series to stay fresh.
Cut to 2011 and we have Paranormal Activity 3; directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The two filmmakers were the directors who crafted last year’s much hyped documentary Catfish. Loving the work they did on Catfish and how they told a story using montages of familiar websites, I was really interested to see what the duo could do with a Horror movie that took on a “documentary” style. As I sat in the theatre shaking and wanting to pull my sweater away from the bottom half of my face, I couldn’t help but feel proud for these two determined filmmakers. They have tried something new, brought innovative ideas to the table, and have executed the best film in the franchise.
Paranormal Activity 3 takes place in 1988 and follows our leads Katie and Kristi as children, played byChloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown. Around this young age, Kristi, the victim in Paranormal Activity 2, has been introduced to a mysterious and evil spirit named “Toby”. Constantly talking to her in the middle of the night, Toby and Kristi have built an unusual relationship.
Their father Dennis, played by Christopher Nicholas Smith, has noticed Kristi acting strange and has witnessed a supernatural sign on a video he recorded. Interested and egged on by his friend Randy, played by Dustin Ingram, Dennis sets up multiple cameras around the house to see if he can capture any more of these odd sightings. What follows are events that connect Kristi’s mysterious friend to these hauntings.
Not knowing anything about the filmmakers, you would think the directorial duo have been dabbling in Horror for a long time. Joost and Schulman show glimmering talent behind the camera and prove that they are ready to tackle movies outside the documentary genre. They are able to pull natural and effective performances from their actors and know how to utilize the low-fi medium and spooky timing to conjure up scares.
The film has been either shot on tape or altered in an editing bay to adapt that obsolete look you would find on a used VHS cassette. I’m having difficulty deciding because in some scenes, you see Dennis in the mirror holding the camera and shooting himself holding an old piece of equipment. Whatever the method of filmmaking was, it’s used very well here. There are quick cuts that sometimes clip the end of a character’s dialogue and even though that may be frowned upon in your average film, it adds to authenticity here and shows that the two directors embrace the antique equipment and stick to how footage of that caliber is supposed to look and sound. The style never peters out and I admire that a lot; even though it won’t win everyone over.
Fans of the movies will also be surprised with how impressive the scares are and how early they come. The creativity behind the tautness is noteworthy as well. The sharpest decision in the movie comes from an oscillating camera.
Dennis wants to cover more of the living room and kitchen but isn’t able to do so with a standard tripod. He figures out though that if he was to take apart an oscillating fan and prop the camera on top, his problem would be solved. Let me tell you, his worries are finished but our nightmares just begin as we watch the camera from a first person view slowly move from left to right accompanied by a low hum as the fan’s gears slowly and creakily manoeuvre. We don’t know what’s going to happen and we have no choice but to watch. There’s nowhere to look but ahead.
I have minor quibbles with some of the plot. Like, how are these old tapes playing for us? There’s no title card stating that the police have this footage. However, as the movie progresses, theories can be created as to how these tapes are being played.
Another problem I had was with the Mother character and her skepticism regarding Toby and Dennis’ videotaping. For instance, after numerous scares and the young sisters crying and telling their Mom, played by Lauren Bittner, about what has happened, she still refuses to look at the tapes and orders Dennis to shut down his videotape experiment. Wouldn’t she be the least bit curious to give a brief glance at the evidence? Especially after Katie sobs and complains that Toby lifted her up by the hair. There’s a camera in the girls’ bedroom, it would’ve picked up this violent act. Hmm…
However, these flaws don’t bother me too much if the scary movie is successful with its goal: to leave a lasting impact on its audience through Horror. That said, it’s a fantastic scary movie and the best damn Horror I’ve seen all year. Paranormal Activity 3 will have you shooken up as the credits roll but as you realize that it’s safe to breathe again, you’ll sit in your seat astonished by how the films have now been fleshed out even further.
I thought this was a decent effort too, considering it was on its third trip around. Good review.