Review: Paranormal Activity 3Posted: November 15, 2011
The first two Paranormal Activity flicks really creeped me out, their low fi, surveillance camera style really worked on me, the slow burn that slowly ratched up the tension through minor scares before really kicking off at the end.
I’d been really looking forward to Paranormal Activity 3 and finally got around to seeing it yesterday, and it was definitely worth the wait.
Its a fantastic little flick, set in 1988 it follows two little girls who will grow up to be the characters menaced in the first two installments. Like the other films it uses the “found footage” conceit, with the first few incidences being caught by accident on a video camera owned by Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), a wedding video maker who’s just moved in with his girlfriend, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her two young daughters, Katie and Kristi (Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown).
Having discovered a few weird things on camera, Dennis sets up a couple of cameras to record whats going on and begins to investigate, roping in his geeky buddy Randy (Dustin Ingram). As things progress the incidents get more and more severe and it becomes apparent that Kristi’s imaginary friend Toby, might not be so imaginary. Or that friendly.
Things start to unravel and after a particularly close encounter Randy decides to get out of it.
I don’t want to give away too much, but its a brilliant film that explains lots of stuff that is hinted at in the first two flicks. It helps round out the story and in a way makes it even creepier as you slowly realise what Toby might be and why he’s after the girls.
But what I think makes it the best installment is the character work, which has improved throughout the series. The relationship between the sisters is realistic and endearing, as is the fairly new relationship between Dennis and Julie.
Dennis is the film’s strongest asset, his inquisitve nature justifies the cameras and seems born out of genuine concern, whereas the first film’s protagonist did it to just capture something on tape. And also he’s closer to a traditional horror hero, trying to solve the mystery and protecting the children from danger. In a way it makes sense to have him not being the father, as it means that he’s new to the mysteries that surround the family and also in a way, makes it even more heroic when he attempts to protect the kids.
I’ve always found that the best horror films are the ones where you fully engage with the characters, because otherwise, what’s the point? You can watch all the torture porn horrors and while you wince at the gore you don’t really care. The characters may as well be mannequins, they wander in, get killed and thats it. You don’t have any feelings for them, so why should you care if they escape and survive? Its why I’m not keen on stuff like Saw or the lesser slashers, and prefer things like The Thing or The Omen, where there are rounded characters at the centre of the horror.
And Dennis I think succeeds in getting you involved, in the same way the teenage daughter, Ali, does in the second film. While the first film is creepy, and the conflict that grows between the couple is engaging, you don’t really warm to either character, whereas Dennis comes across as a normal, likable dude. Its because you care about him that as you jump and get scared you’re still willing him to survive throughout.
I jumped half a dozen times and there was a growing sense of unease that started about 10 minutes into the flick and which doesn’t let up for the whole thing. Not a comfortable watch as you’re constantly on edge, but you go to see it to be scared and it totally works, and that safe fear is always fun.
I also like the subtle nod to Poltergeist in one scene, where Julie smokes weed just like the mum in Poltergeist. Its a little nod but I dug it, and its a shame Insidious didn’t include one, as having rewatched Poltergeist its blatant how much Insidious nicked from it.
The film also teaches us not to name daughters with a name ending with an “ie” sound- Katie, Kristi and Julie don’t have a great time of it, and you can add Carrie, Sydney (Scream) and Nancy (Nightmare On Elm Street) to that list.
Chillingly scary with some massive jumps, in many ways the best in the series. 4/5