Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Directed By: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Running Time: 84 minutes
Seriously, how awesome was the first SAW movie? You know, the one set almost entirely in a dingy bathroom with two characters who are physically chained to opposite ends of the room and with tensions rising and character driven power-plays a plenty given they both know that one of them must somehow kill the other one within the next six hours? The one with minimal on-screen violence and instead relying on the use of sound and the human imagination to convey the horrible things that are happening to the victims of the Jigsaw Killer; which in turn made the times when you actually saw the violence all the more powerful and disturbing? You don’t remember it? That’s probably because all anyone can think of when you mention SAW to them is the SIX sequels that, rather then having the artistic vision of the fairly low-budget original, instead had the vision of “OK, so we have $17 million, how many buckets of fake blood will that buy us to spray at the audience?” Suddenly the films weren’t psychological thriller/horror anymore, they had become the poster-films for the genre “torture-porn”. The lesson we must take away here is that the best horror films are the ones that are made with a low budget and talented film makers because it gives them such restraint that they need to use atmosphere to insight the human mind into creating the terror. And nothing is scarier than the human imagination.
Which leads me to my next point: Paranormal Activity is awesome!
I’m speaking mainly about the first one here, so bare with me, but I believe that Paranormal Activity is the horror film to which all other horror films should be judged. Why? Because it went back to basics and used the human imagination! There is no crazy monster tearing people in two with blood raining from the sky; there is simply a demon that cannot be seen but you know is there, you’ve seen it open the door, or heard it walk into the room but you have no idea what it is. And the demon, for something that is completely invisible, has such presence! You can just feel it in the room and it sends shivers up the spine. And all the scary moments in the film just look so real, and that’s because they are real due to the lack of money for CGI! The doors really did move without a person walking through them, those sounds downstairs probably weren’t some foley artist but was simply someone down there making them in real time. Combining this technique with the use of a home camera that is actually part of the narrative and you have a horror film that looks like it was actually made up of real events rather than staged ones. It is a masterpiece of cinema.
But now I come to the sequels.
Now Showing this week is Paranormal Activity 3, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The third film in the series is a prequel set some seventeen years before the events of the first two films and revolves around the two main sisters of the series while they were very young. Their mother’s boyfriend Dennis has recently noticed strange occurrences in their new house and is using his video cameras to try and record what’s going on. So pretty much, the same plot as the last two. Which is fine, as at least both the Paranormal Activity sequels add something to the story each time, rather than simply scaring us again with the demon. And while these sequels are unnecessary given the original was so perfect in itself, unlike the SAW films they are actually good and reveal more information that satisfies one’s curiosities as to the relationship between this family and this demon.
Paranormal Activity 3 adds some new methods in scaring the audience, sadly one or two of them must have used CGI to achieve which breaks my “low budget” love of the series. But my personal favourite technique is the use of a camera that is attached to a desk fan that routinely pans across the living room and kitchen. The amount of tension that I felt while it panned back and forth was astounding, so it was very effective! If it’s one thing this film should be commended on it is its use of cinematography.
However, I really hope this series ends with this film because it was clear in Paranormal Activity 3 that the film makers are running out of legitimate reasons for the protagonists to keep filming the really scary moments. The climax of this film consists of an unbelievably nerve racking sequence involving Dennis walking around the house holding his camera in front of him; but there is no logical reason for him to have taken it with him. Any rationally thinking person would not pick up the camera when going off to search for someone in a creepy house. But then again, if he hadn’t then the sequence couldn’t be in the film. And therein lies the problem. In the original film any time the boyfriend took the camera with him it was clear that his main drive for the entire film was to catch the demon on film and his girlfriend would often exclaim for him to forget about the damn camera! In the second film, the only scene where the camera was a strange edition was explained due to the characters requiring the use of the night-vision function in the basement. But in this one, there is no explanation and that is the film’s biggest flaw.
Many other reviews that I have read thought that this film contained numerous plot holes when held in conjunction with the prior two installments. I would like to stand up and say: I disagree! I cannot elaborate too much as to why I think those other reviewers are incorrect, but if you watch the film and pay very close attention (you don’t actually have to pay that much attention, it’s not like it’s hidden or anything. The other reviewers are just dumb!) and can actually use your brain to connect the dots and imagine events occurring after the film concludes, then you’ll be set. I wish I could say more, but for the sake of spoilers I shall not.
Bottom line, this film is good. It’s not excellent like the original, but that’s because the whole invisible demon on handy cam thing isn’t new anymore. But it does have some new elements to it and further develops the story-line in an interesting direction. If you liked the first two, you’ll very much enjoy this one. If you haven’t seen any of them, go watch the first one, you won’t regret it! You’ll watch it, be scared but love it, then afterwards say “yeah that was good, but it’s just a movie.” You’ll go to bed, maybe read a book, then turn out the light and close your eyes to go to sleep. And that’s when the house will creak….
See you next time!