Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Having seen the final cut of Paranormal Activity 3 and not the one screened during Fantastic Fest, it’s time for us to weigh in with an official review. In 2007 I fell in love with the original Paranormal Activity. Like it or not, it stands as a sterling example of independent filmmaking, proving once and for all that a creative filmmaker with passion can successfully weigh in with the big budget Hollywood fare. When Paranormal Activity 2 was announced, I was as skeptical as anyone. The movie didn’t need a sequel. However, in the end the second film took the events of the first and expanded and explained them perfectly. Lightning struck twice, and once again the now franchise found itself sitting high upon the Halloween box office.
The third film now has the unenviable task of living up to the first two. Let’s face it; the law of averages dictates that by all counts you can only go to the well so many times before it runs dry. Yet, this is a franchise that’s notorious for breaking the rules. How does it fare? I’m happy to say better than anyone could ever have hoped for.
Paranormal Activity 3 is actually a prequel to Part 2, which was already a prequel to the original. The time is 1988, and we’re introduced to Julie (Bittner) and Dennis (Smith), the proud parents of young Katie (Csengery) and Kristi Rey (Brown) (the child counterparts of their adult selves). Dennis runs a videography business out of their home, and Julie is about as cool a mom as you could possibly have. Their lives aren’t perfect, but they’re totally okay with that. In order for these movies to work, they need to strike a tone of authenticity. You need to believe that this is a real family. Everyone does a stellar job of creating that illusion, in fact, even more so than in Part 2. This family is easy to relate to. The dynamic is spot on. Everyone is extremely likable, and as a result you really start feeling for them once the lights go out and night creeps in.
I know what you’re thinking … we’ve seen this before in the last two films. Things start slowly, build up, and then go haywire. Formulaic, right? Wrong. While the series has its signature marks for sure, all of which are retained here, the inventive shooting style on display feels remarkably fresh while it holds you at its mercy, and believe me when I say there are moments in which the tension builds to a completely merciless level. You will find yourself afraid, jumping out of your seat, and white knuckled to the point of exhaustion.
Paranormal Activity 3 answers a few, but not all, of the questions raised by the first two films and in the process takes an even darker turn, thereby raising even more questions and a lot of hell along with them. The movie doesn’t just look to scare you … it toys with you. Gets under your skin. By the time that it all ends, fans of the series will find themselves wanting more immediately. It’s almost as if you’re left with three pieces of a four-piece puzzle. For that we’ll have to wait … and hope.
If you’re not a fan of the first two films, it’s not likely that Paranormal Activity 3 will do much to win you over. These flicks just don’t work for some folks, and that’s understandable. However, for those of us that do enjoy them? This is nothing short of a gift. The action is definitely amped up, the scares come fast and furious, and the overall creep factor is through the damned roof.
It’s amazing that a little found footage flick could end up having such a rich mythology built up around it. That’s a true testament to expert writing and some really ingenious filmmakers.
What we have here is the perfect Halloween treat that will no doubt have legions of folks gasping, screaming, and thinking twice before shutting off the lights. These movies possess the uncanny ability to follow you home and have your house come alive around you while you’re lying there trying in vain to sleep. The scariest modern horror franchise of the last ten years is alive, well, and staring at you from the foot of your bed. Paranormal Activity 3 defies all odds and delivers yet another hellish reason to be afraid of the dark.
4 out of 5