In 2007, a little-known computer programmer named Oren Peli decided to direct a low-budget horror film. Based on his experiences living in a creaky house, and inspired by the indie-horror box-office success The Blair Witch Project, Peli came out with Paranormal Activity. Now, following the success of Paranormal Activity 2, Peli returns as producer for the third instalment of the saga. The directorial responsibility has been handed to Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, makers of the controversial “documentary” Catfish, in which they employed a similar style to the Paranormal films.
Fans of the first two films won’t be disappointed. The film takes you back to 1988, when sisters Kristi and Katie first encounter the “invisible entity” that haunted them in the first two films. The story centres on the sisters, who live with their mother Julie and her boyfriend Dennis (who just happens to be a wedding videographer). As with the previous films, strange occurrences and creepy incidents pop up slowly and periodically. It begins when the sisters claim to have made friends with a ghost named Toby—similar to Danny’s invisible friend Tony in The Shining. This leads Dennis to consult his friend Randy, and predictably, cameras are installed throughout the house. As the story progresses, the scares get stronger, as scratches on doors turn into levitating bodies and the truth behind the “invisible entity” is revealed. Comedic moments that are rarely seen in horror films appear occasionally, like a scene depicting Julie and Dennis in the process of making a sex tape before being disrupted by an earthquake. And the believability of the characters is stronger than one would expect, given the low-budget simplicity of the film. Although it has two adolescent girls at the centre of the narrative, typical of most cliché horror films, Paranormal Activity 3 manages to curb this effect by having the girls victimized by the ghost as opposed to causing the harm. The film’s climax raises more questions than the answers it gives, but of course that’s its ultimate purpose.
PA3 employs many of the same tactics and gimmicks of the previous films, yet it still reaps the rewards. Grossing $8 million from its midnight screenings alone, it is expected to surpass the revenues of $100 million of its predecessors. While much can be made of the repetitive nature of the series, the continuity and intrigue that accompanies the overarching story is admirable. PA3 is predictable and simple, yet when you sit in the dark, staring at shaky footage on a 22-foot screen among an audience that shivers at every creak, you can’t help but be scared. MMM