Film: Paranormal Activity 3
UK Release date: Out now
Director: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Starring: Katie Featherston, Sprague Grayden, Lauren Bittner, Mark Fredrichs, Brian Boland
Running time: 94 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
I didn’t understand the power of horror until I was about thirteen years old. I was participating in a 24 hours sports event at school, and in between the physical stuff we would all get together and watch movies. The film that stood out for me was A Nightmare on Elm Street. It wasn’t until I saw a horror movie in the company of others that I witnessed its power first hand – a girl sitting in front of me was absolutely terrified by what was taking place on screen. I’d never experienced that kind of emotion myself, it seemed kind of alien to me, or at least it did until the day I watched Paranormal Activity.
The first movie in the series did genuinely scare me; so much so, I had to convince my girlfriend to leave her schoolwork behind (she’s a teacher before you get any ideas) and come to bed with me. She refused. I had a very restless night. Paranormal 2 didn’t really do it for me though, probably because P.A. clones had been creeping out of every closet and every open doorway since the original film went global. The found-footage thriller had lost its spark somewhere down the line, even if it did still possess the power to shock and surprise with the lights down low.
Paranormal Activity 3 takes us back to where it all began, with an unknown evil terrorising young sisters Katie and Kristi for the first time. The formula is so familiar now there’s a good chance you’ll find your mind wandering when the scares take a back seat to exposition. The same logistical nightmares arise. Why does this family insist on documenting every step of their lives? If you were really that concerned about your children camping in the garden, would you really pick up your camera before you investigate further? Confronted by a ghostly spirit, why on earth would you risk the lives of your wife and children in order to carry on filming? The characters play it dumb for the most part and deserve what is coming to/for them, with PA3’s enjoyment also hampered by a couple of shaky central performances.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman create the occasional good scare, but they provide some lazy, inexplicably daft ones too. PA3 is generic, clichéd, illogical and formulaic, but some scenes will stay with you. A roaming camera provides the most tension, allowing the Catfish directors to play on horror’s greatest strength - because you never quite know what’s lurking out of shot. While I’m thinking about it though, if your wife disappears and you’re that concerned about her welfare, would you really pick up the… (I think we can leave that one now). The climatic struggle is worth the wait though, with PA3 building to a particularly creepy conclusion.
Despite so many wrongs, PA3 still serves up more scares than your typical Hollywood horror movie. The final act – as is usually the case – is both nasty and surprising, and there’s enough here to suggest that we haven’t seen the last of Kristi and Katie. After all, Joost and Schulman will be back for part four later this year.