Directors: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost
Starring: Chloe Csengery
Runtime: 84 minutes
This film is showing at Reel Cinema. Click here for more information.
Have you ever wondered what Big Brother would be like if it had less quirky challenges and comic regional accents, and more demonic possessions and ghostly sex pests? For those not familiar with the Paranormal Activity series, each film has the same basic premise of a family setting up cameras in their house to record unexplained goings-on. This, the third in the franchise, is a prequel set in the late 80s following a demonic evil spirit called – seriously – Toby, that one of two sisters has befriended whilst their camera-enthusiast stepdad Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) struggles to investigate the roots of these occult occurrences. Also there’s a brief cameo from a talking teddy bear.
Although the original film in the series was admirable for what it achieved on such a low budget, it was far from original, the found-footage horror genre already seeming somewhat stale at that point. The second film also had nothing new to say, so I came into Paranormal Activity 3 with very low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised by a consistently tense and inventive film featuring refreshing injections of humour.
The unknown cast do a decent job; there is admittedly little in the way of character development but the actors’ likeable portrayals are enough to round the characters to the extent that the audience can invest themselves in their troubles. There is a fine line most child actors have to walk to prevent themselves from becoming walking birth control adverts, but the two little girls do admirably. They never become overly irritating and maintain a satisfactory amount of creepy nuances to foster an uneasy atmosphere whilst never tipping into the hackneyed creepy-kid stereotype. I would even go as far as to compare them to other iconic scary kids like Danny from The Shining or Kevin from the Home Alone movies.
I can’t see this film winning over any non-fans of this horror subgenre, but followers of the series or those just fancying a decent Halloween scare – or even those who have a healthy interest in repetitive shots of dimly lit kitchens (I personally can’t get enough) – should be in for an enjoyably creepy time. This film is by far the best paced of the series and although there are some cheap jump scares near the beginning, they are vindicated by some genuinely unnerving and innovative moments later on. This includes one scene involving a rotating camera, a sheet and a babysitter, as well as some edge-of-your-seat final minutes. Roll on very-possibly-actually-going-to-be-crap-this-time Paranormal Activity 4!