‘Paranormal Activity’ Returns for Third Scare

After becoming a success in 2009, despite its micro-budget, Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity” has spawned its second spooky entry in two years, just in time for Halloween.

Duo Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (“Catfish,” 2010) take over the directing helm in “Paranormal Activity 3.” The screenplay is by Christopher B. Landon who wrote the franchise’s first sequel in 2010.

Unlike “Paranormal Activity 2,” where the story began shortly before the first film but ended as a sequel, the latest addition is a full blown prequel.

The film, presented as stolen footage from VHS tapes from the 2010 movie, takes place in Carlsbad, Calif. in 1988. The sisters from the first two Paranormals, Katie and Kristie, are now young girls living with their mother Julie and her boyfriend, Dennis, in a new home.

Dennis, played by Christopher Nicholas Smith, is a wedding videographer who decides to set up cameras in the bedrooms after he notices strange noises. These noises “coincidentally” occur after Kristi begins speaking to her new “imaginary” friend, Toby.

Julie, played by Lauren Bittner, is skeptical of her boyfriend’s suspicions and brushes Toby off as an innocent figment of Kristi’s imagination.

Little does she know that Toby isn’t an imaginary friend but instead an invisible and malevolent demon, as revealed in the first film. It’s a completely understandable mistake.

Schulman and Joost’s directing of the film is on par with the previous film’s, as are its cinematography and signature style of scaring its audience.

Most of the film’s scenes and ghostly commotions are filmed statically as the cameras are mounted on tripods in bedrooms.

The tension gradually builds up, sometimes at a snail’s pace, and pays off with a quick and sometimes violent attack from the unwanted spectral house guest.

A perfect example of this is the Bloody Mary scene, which is one of the best moments in any of the “Paranormal Activity” films. In this scene, Dennis’ friend Randy is watching over Katie as the two are all alone in the house.

Unlike Katie, Randy is fully aware of the fact that there is a supernatural force in the house because he has seen Dennis’ footage. Katie begs him to play Bloody Mary with him in the bathroom and he reluctantly agrees.

After repeating the famous ghost’s name three times in the dark nothing happens. Tick tock tick tock tick tock. Suddenly, Randy is slashed by Toby and the scares come in full force.

Despite being a frightening scene, it has just the right amount of humor in it as Randy is frantically trying to keep calm to avoid panicking Katie while all hell is breaking loose.

While the film’s acting is neither ghastly nor fantastic, the main characters, Dennis and Julie, are likeable and are highly reminiscent of Micah and Katie from the first film. This is a welcome improvement over Kristi and Dan, from the second film.

Although the movie is a prequel and intended to answer

questions raised in the previous “Paranormal” films, it ends up with more unanswered questions than ever before. This reveals the franchise’s glaring weakness is also what makes the films unique.

As a result of the plot being told solely by found footage, the story in each entry can only reveal a certain amount of plot details and unanswered questions because the story is bonded to the cameras. Consequently, it may take not only one more sequel to complete the story, but two or more.

This can be troublesome because while the series is popular now, the unwelcome guest may not just be a demon but the “Paranormal” films as well, if there is a sixth or seventh entry.

Those who didn’t enjoy any of the previous films in the series will not be convinced by the newest film whatsoever. Audiences who enjoyed the previous “Paranormal” films will be delightfully scared to death.

Although the bar is set embarrassingly low, “Paranormal Activity 3” is one of the best entries in any horror movie franchise.

The film runs 86 minutes and is rated R for some violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use.


Four out of Five Stars