Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Paranormal Activity 3 debuted at the weekend box office to the tune of a $54 million opening weekend, and that total may rise because I’m writing this on Sunday.  I don’t know how they calculate that stuff at all.  I’ve been a fan of the PA movies since they started in 2009, but I hope that they don’t pull a Saw and continue on forever.  Three movies in three years is impressive enough, and the execution of the story behind the sisters Katie and Kristi has been fascinating in my books.

It appears the films take place in reverse chronological order, which is a pretty interesting trick as well.  The first dealt with Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) being haunted by some demonic figure.  The second took place just before and just after the first one, and dealt with Kristi’s (Sprague Grayden) family being tortured by what appears to be the very same demon.  Throughout the second film, there are many allusions to the childhood of Katie and Kristi, and how they were tormented back then for a period of time.

The third film shows that period of time, 18 years previous, through a series of videotapes that were conveniently found at the beginning of the film.  Much like the TV series “24”, the central conceit of the film being that all these so-called paranormal activities are being caught on film is harder and harder to accomplish.  I mean, if the directors of the movie (Catfish‘s Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost) wanted it to be completely accurate, the video would have been so grainy that audiences would have found new ways to get headaches.

Much of the video footage centres on the young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and her interactions with her invisible, “imaginary” friend Toby.  Her sister, the young Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown), does as older siblings do, and mocks Katie for her imagination, much to Toby’s wrath.  Lauren Bittner and Christopher Nicholas Smith head up the rest of the main cast, and they perform ably around the structure of the filming.

The strength of the PA franchise is not just in the depth of the story (some people will laugh at the very notion of depth in this series), but in balancing the terrifying scares that take place throughout.  Some are genuinely startling, some illicit unfortunate laughter from idiots in the audience (reminding me why I hate going to the movie theatre), and some are there as shock humour, to let you release some of the amazing tension this movie builds up in you.  It’s a good mix, and while not as scary as the first two movies, it’s still got plenty of creepy to it.

The cast perform as believably as one could expect in situations most of us have never been through.  It feels very real, and for me, that’s the most important thing to have in a horror film.  I don’t want to see cartoonishly madcap evil figures like Jason or Freddy Kruger.  I want that deep, unsettling fear that the events could have actually happened and could happen to anyone.  The storyline of the trilogy wraps up fairly well and provides the reasoning behind the events of the first two movies, and I’d be completely happy if this was the last one.

I mean, I do want to see more movies like this one, but the central conceit of the movie wouldn’t translate over to seeing what happened with Katie and Hunter after the second film.  DO NOT MAKE THAT MOVIE.  I would also like to state that many of the events that are shown in the commercials do not actually take place in the movie, which is actually quite brilliant for a horror film of this nature.  You keep waiting for those moments, and you’re already desensitized to them, and THEY NEVER HAPPEN.

3.5 / 5

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About SkoochXC
Long-time blogger, Canadian, cine-snark-aphile, Tweeter and generally lonely hearted guy.

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