When Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity became a global phenomenon on a meagre budget back in 2007, rumour has it that dollar signs actually appeared on the eyeballs of Paramount Pictures executives. So it was inevitable that, in these times in which popular film is governed by ‘franchise culture’, the sequel was always lurking around the corner. Last year’s inventively titled Paranormal Activity 2 tried to approach things a little differently, with (spoiler alert!) its narrative overlapping and augmenting that of the original feature. It seemed that this second demonic, door-slamming affair ended in such a way that there was very little room for forward narrative progression. The solution? Go backwards.
Repositioned (by way of a rather clumsy opening scene) in the 1980s, Paranormal Activity 3 presents itself as an origin tale to the disturbing events of the films previous. The strange childhood events alluded to in the original and sequel by sisters Katie and Kristi are revealed through yet another tech-savvy male figure (a necessary role familiar to fans of the films). Young Katie and Kristi (Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown) live with their mother Julie (Laura Bittner) and her boyfriend Dennis (a.k.a. the man with the cameras, played by Christopher Nicholas Smith) in their retro leafy suburb. When Kristi begins to talk about her invisible friend ‘Toby’, strange happenings begin to occur with increasing intensity and regularity.
Cue the trademark swinging light fixtures, slamming doors and paranormal hocus-pocus that we all know…and love to fear. New directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman have fun with the period setting by blending the familiar tension and misdirection of the franchise with a few staples of eighties horror that will leave fan-boys smirking and anxieties racing.
Great enjoyment can be had from attempting to predict the more obvious scares, especially early on, and a pleasant surprise was that many of them proved a somewhat more elusive and complex than one might expect. That said, Paranormal Activity 3 certainly follows the same formula as its predecessors – it continues to play on places of safety within the family home and throws in a couple of increasingly creepy little girls for good measure. The formula’s just been relocated, tweaked and hammered out again for the paying cinema-goer.
So if you’re looking for something truly fresh and novel this Halloween weekend, give Paranormal Activity 3 a miss. But if you can’t get enough of frantically scanning the screen for signs of moving décor and evil beings, get to the cinema ASAP: It’s the only place you’ll get the full, nerve-jangling experience of a film such as this.
Paranormal Activity 3. Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Starring: Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Laura Bittner, Christopher Nicholas Smith. 85 minutes.