Rating: 3 stars out 5
It seems we’re going back to the future this Halloween. Like the current version of The Thing, Paranormal Activity 3 (PA3), despite its title, is actually a prequel, where we discover the roots of the events in Paranormal Activity 1 and 2.
Katie (Katie Featherstone) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden), from the first two movies, discover a bunch of VHS tapes from their childhood, and some unknown editor puts the footage together.
Reusing the found-footage gimmick of its predecessors, the prequel, set in 1988, focuses on the childhood of the two sisters, and their seemingly harmless invisible friend Toby. Too bad Toby isn’t so harmless after all.
A wedding videographer Dennis (Chris Smith), tries to convince the girl’s unbelieving mom Julie (Lauren Bittner) that there’s something odd going on. Soon he’s planting cameras at various locations of Julie’s spacious California home, determined to catch the supernatural intruder in the act. He even puts together a camera that swings left and right, giving more opportunity for the filmmakers to play spot-the-difference and create some new scares.
Like the earlier films, the constrained point of view of the cameras help to heighten the tension. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who worked on Catfish, use the same bag of tricks from the previous movies, but they also let the audience imagine what’s happening off-screen, which is often far worse than any blood and gore they can put on screen.
One recalls how, in the first film, all it took was a slamming door to get the audience screaming. And here it’s reused whenever the film starts to go into a lull.
Over the course of PA 3, the tension slowly ratchet up, as the ghostly sounds go from slight, almost impossible to hear creaks, to become gradually louder. The tension in the film rises along with it, with the usual bunch of fake-outs to keep the audience on their toes.
Interestingly enough, this is one film that practically uses almost nothing from the trailers released so far, which might be the biggest fake-out of all.
For this latest instalment, there’s also some more background to the cause of the hauntings surrounding the two sisters, which might or might not please hard-core fans of the series. There’s also the age-old-question on why the videographer filming the footage is so persistent on holding on to the camera, particularly in the climax, where some kind of weapon might certainly prove more useful.
PA3 goes with what worked before in the first two movies, though a substantially higher budget appears to have increased the ability of the not-so-friendly ghost. It serves up the same bunch of scares in a repackaged format
Some may find this prequel as scary, while others might wish those tapes the sisters discovered had been eaten by mould.