Saturday, 22 October 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 - review

Having taking over from the Saw films to become the new annual Horror franchise, another October sees the release of another Paranormal Activity.
I was very high on the first installment, calling it one of the "scariest films of the decade", which I felt breathed a bit of new life into the tired "found footage" format thanks to its concept (a young couple Katie and Micha set up a video camera at night to capture evidence of strange goings ons in the night) and execution by being genuinely creepy and unsettling,
The sequel, which I only watched last week, was a prequel which focused on Katie's sister Kristy's family and the misfortunes that befall them.  It went for very similar scares and suffered by having Katie and Micah appear which created massive continuity problems such as why Katie & Micah never mention that the stuff happening to them is very similar to what was happening at her sisters!
Throughout both 1 & 2, Katie and Kristy refer to a spirit and events from their childhood, and the third film focuses on this time period (because very conveniently someone was around to document everything on video again).

Warning - sequence not in final film.  Something a Detroit woman would probably sue over!
After that introductory waffle, let's get straight to the point.  Paranormal Activity 3 is a film that you will probably start to pick Stay Puft Marshmallow Man-size holes in the moment you leave the cinema... but whilst you are in the cinema, the film is very effective and creating a sense of unease and delivers the requisite chills and scares necessary to thrill and satisfy the horror masses.
One of the characteristics of the "found footage" film like The Blair Witch Project, Troll Hunter and the original Paranormal Activity, is that someone has used video evidence to try and piece together what happened to the people involved.  Obviously it goes without saying that the majority of "found footage" films do not have a happy ending.  Yet this threequel starts and stops without any explanation to the context of the footage, apart from briefly recycling footage from the second film that indicates that several videotapes that Katie had were stolen from Kristy's house.  This creates the implausible scenario that if somebody stole them to prevent people seeing them, why has someone edited them together Blair Witch style?!
However I am digressing slightly.  Once you get past this issue, the fact that Katie and Kristy's mum just happens to be dating a videographer called Dennis who suffers from Cloverfield syndrome which involves continuously recording even in the face of certain danger, and the impressive picture and sound quality for a video camera manufactured in 1988, then there is much to appreciate here.
Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are clearly at home in this particular environment, draw great performances from the two girls (particularly from young Jessica Tyler Brown who plays Kristy) and most importantly they understand one of the fundamental basics of horror, antici.............................................................................................................................. pation, as Frank-N-Furter would say. 
As evidenced in a packed auditiorium, they know when to hold back, to build the tension to almost unbearable levels and then deliver that sucker punch scare that comes as a welcome release.  Every time it came up with a title card reading "night #14" etc, you could feel the audience tense up, waiting for something terrible to happen.
None more so then Dennis sets up a camera on a mechanical room fan which allows it to catch 180 degrees of the house as it slowly rotates back and forth.  Everytime it leaves one side of the room, you could feel people grabbing onto their armrests or the person next to them as they expect a shadowy figure or evil entity to be in frame when the camera returns.  It provides several of the films best scares as well as a couple of great laughs too.
The ending perhaps strays too close in the territory of other films of this genre like Blair Witch or The Last Exorcism but it delivers enough shock factor that the average horror fan will still enjoy it.  I would just advise against trying out "Bloody Mary" when you get home from the cinema though!

3 stars

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