The filmmakers behind Paranormal Activity 3 are listening to their fans, quickly washing their hands of PA2, which was widely considered a near-clone of the groundbreaking 2009 found footage chiller by Oren Peli. Reflecting back on PA2, I don’t quite like it as much as I did last October, especially after seeing the third film in the trilogy. Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, PA3 is what the sequel should have been – a mythological launch pad loaded with scares, tension, and more importantly, payoffs. Paramount Pictures referenced Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist in the trailer (a line that’s not in final product), which is fitting considering the filmmakers capture a lot of the essence of the Steven Spielberg-produced haunter, only with a fraction of the budget.
PA3 opens with footage from ‘05/’06 using Katie (Kate Featherstone) and her sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden) as a way of introducing a series of VHS tapes that reveal the back story of the family in 1988. This time we jump into the lives of Julie Bittner (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), who are raising both Katie and Kristi (Chloe Csengery). Dennis is a wedding videographer, who is inclined to begin taping their bedroom, the family living room/kitchen, and children’s bedroom after a series of weird occurrences. Julie is talking to an invisible friend named Tobye, while a major earthquake reveals “something” in the dust. This kick starts the “investigating”.
While the movie wastes a good 30 minutes with obnoxious “jump scares” (one of which is out of this world amazing), the pace is picked up exponentially as the paranormal occurrences go from fun to scary in a blink of an eye. As one character states, “This ain’t no Casper the Friendly Ghost”…
Not since The Ring remake, or the first PA, has a film been so brooding and unnerving. PA3 utilizes some brilliant camera techniques that creates a level of anticipation that’s sure to give some viewers their first ever anxiety attack. While one camera is placed in the girls’ room, the other is propped on a fan base so it can rotate back and forth throughout the night. Every single time the camera pans off screen, and back again, the viewer is expecting some sort of jolt — and it delivers. PA3 ups the ante by toying with the audience, as it’s extremely self-aware. Beyond the “fan cam”, one such example would be the hilariously badass “Bloody Mary” sequence, as teased in the first trailer. In a brief spoiler, when Katie plays Bloody Mary with a friend of Dennis’, the lights flick on and nothing happens, to which Katie screams, “You did it wrong, we have to do it again!” It’s such a light-hearted moment that’s quickly put to an end with one of a hundred gut-punching scares.
Unlike the first two films, the latest entry doesn’t have a safe zone, meaning anything can happen at anytime of the day. Kids are playing? Doesn’t matter, sh*t’s going down. Mom’s in the kitchen reading a magazine? Sh*t’s gonna hit the fan.
But the most impressive aspect of PA3 is that, unlike PA2, it’s basted in a series of memorable moments that rival that of any franchise. The audience will remember scenes from PA3 and be talking about it for years to come.
P3 explains A LOT without being too exposition heavy (one piece of back story is clipped to keep the audience guessing). It has the characters act in an extremely naturalistic way (they leave the house, finally) and add to the mythology by filling in plot holes from the first two (I guess they’re not holes anymore…) P3 also sticks true to the franchise roots as you will NOT see the demon. Hopefully your imagination is as good as mine…
I thought PA2 was a pretty fun copycat of Peli’s first film, only seeing PA3 has made it null and void. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman inject the mythology with life, jam-packing it with heart-exploding scares (even the most fierce and difficult of genre fans will jump out of their seat) and non-stop supernatural insanity. Fans who have turned their backs after the dull sequel can rest assure that PA3 takes everything to an off-the-charts and in-your-face new level of terror.