PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. Starring: Katie Featherston, Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Lauren Bittner. Directed by: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost. Rated M (Horror themes, coarse language and drug use).100 minutes.
Paranormal Activity 3 isn’t a film for everyone, particularly if horror isn’t your genre and you’ve stayed well clear of Paranormal Activity 1 and 2. But if you do wander into a screening of this riveting prequel sometime soon (say, at Halloween), then ‘Be afraid – be very afraid!
Directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (who made the pseudo-documentary Catfish), Paranormal Activity 3 is set 18 years before the events of the first two films, and uses old fashioned video tapes somehow purloined from the archives of the series’ main characters, Katie (Katie Featherston) and her sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden), to reveal the truth about what happened all those years ago.
Shot using the grainy realism of security footage, Paranormal 3 spies on the night time activities of Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown), when they were children in 1988, living in a small two level home with their mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) and her boyfriend Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith).
Dennis is concerned that strange things seem to be happening in the night: there is the sound of doors opening and closing, walls and floor boards creaking, even an earth-quake when he and Julie are making love one night on camera.
Dennis is obsessed by the mystery, and at the instigation of his friend Randy, installs cameras throughout the house, even causing one to oscillate with monotonous slowness in the murky silence like the soundless ticking of a clock.
One night Kristi is captured speaking off-camera to an invisible friend she calls ‘Toby’, who she seems to both fear and look up to, literally. Another time a strange symbol is found incised in the girls’ bedroom. But nothing prepares Julie and Dennis for the pandemonium that is about to break loose.
Paranormal Activity 3 follows in the well-trodden path of The Blair Witch Project (1999), and plays cleverly on our fear of the dark and belief in unseen malevolent forces. There are long slow moments of unbearable tension in the film, broken suddenly by the eruption of loud bangs, objects whizzing through the air or falling off walls, accompanied by shocked gasps from the audience - much like someone creeping up behind you in the dark, suddenly shouting, ‘Booh!).
If agonising suspense for an hour and a half with one’s eyes glued to a shadowy screen is your kind of movie, then enjoy.
Jan Epstein is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out 27th October 2011.