03 November 2011

Paranormal Activity 3

Paranormal Activity 3

Starring Jessica Tyler, Brian Boland, Chloe Csengery, Christoper Nhcolas, Lauren Blittner, Hallie Foote
Written by Christopher B. Landon
Directed by Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost
Release: 21 October 2011
Paramount, 85 mins., Rated R

Plot: Sequel sequel to prequel prequel.

For years, every Halloween the Saw franchise was the reigning victor in the box office, presenting a tightly woven narrative with gory death traps, making it a cash cow for the studio. In 2009, Paranormal Activity, an independent production made for a reported $15,000, dethroned Saw VI, rounding out its theatrical run with $107.9 million.

Despite no original plans to continue the series, Paranormal Activity 2 hit theaters the following October, surpassing its predecessor in box office and delivering more effective chills.

And now, a third installment enters theaters with a record breaking $54 million opening weekend. Suffice it to say, Halloween now belongs to Paranormal Activity.

Going back in time even further, before Paranormal 2, the third film (and second prequel) is set in 1988, shown through old, discarded VHS tapes, chronicling exactly what shenanigans young Katie and Kristi are up to with that pesky demon that will inevitably cause them trouble later in life.

Video recorded by Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), boyfriend of the sisters’ mother Julie (Lauren Bittner), he sets up three cameras: one in their room, one in the children’s bedroom, and one downstairs covering the kitchen and living room (humorously duct taped to a fan). As the nights roll on, the cameras pick up unusual images and weird exchanges between Kristi and an invisible entity.

Paranormal Activity 3 is highly effective in its ability to build tension. The moving camera attached to the fan may be the single most brilliant invention of the entire trilogy, making audiences cling to every inch of the frame to see what may be coming and when.

This device is brilliantly used during a scene involving a ‘ghost’ and a babysitter. Although the film has a bit of a slow burn until the unusual phenomena begins, it does allow viewers to get to know Dennis and Julie, and even become fans of both of them, especially Dennis (whose reactions to everything are comedic gold). In fact, it’s with a long, intimate scene with them that delivered the most effective spine-chilling freak out of them all.

Another runaway success is the utterly natural, realistic performances of the child actors playing Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) and Katie (Chloe Csengery). Not one bit of their performance feels phoned in, and because of the level of realism with these two, when the demon becomes aggressive it’s absolutely horrifying. And not just because it’s a bit scary, but because we come to care for the kids and don’t want bad things to happen to them.

That’s quite the accomplishment when typically, audiences are or more or less rooting for the demon. The casting here is nothing short of exquisite, boasting the most likable and personable cast of the trilogy.

The film is one long tense production that culminates in a chaotic crescendo. It’s the scares and the characters that make Paranormal 3 a success, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely perfect.

As opposed to the previous two, this one doesn’t feel quite as complete, and when the end credits roll, the theater was collective in their reaction of, “That’s it?” There should have been, and could have been, more to the story, or more scares. It just seems to end awfully sudden.

Following in the footsteps of Paranormal 2, a few more layers of its mythology is unraveled, this time involving a strange symbol that may be connected to the demon. The last film was very mythology heavy, but all its twists and turns made sense in the context of the narrative and added up to the original film’s framework really well. What’s brought to the table in the closing minutes of Paranormal 3 doesn’t nearly jive as well, coming out of left field more than making sense in the context of what has come before.

Paranormal Activity 3 isn’t perfect, but it’s highly effective in its scares, it’s tense from beginning to end, and offers the most likable cast of actors in the whole trilogy. Where the series will go from here is uncertain, but judging from phenomenal box office receipts, a fourth helping is all but certain.

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