It looks like the same old pranks but it’s got a few nifty new tricks up its sleeve. Paranormal Activity 3 is another found footage entry of unseen ghosts and spirits that try to take over the bodies of the young. We get a load of frivolous dialogue and “natural” family behavior that grinds on tediously. For awhile, it’s like enough with this series already. You can walk out and grab popcorn all you want at the beginning because these movies really don’t pick up until the halfway mark. But when we get to the scenes of nighttime video surveillance the horror shivers works you all over again. This series is in no way deep or stimulating in intellectual thought. They are spook shows design to jolt you (the filmmakers design shameless false alarms that give you the willies despite yourself). For the hell of it, you watch because you got to know what evil from beyond looks like.
This time – in prequel land of 1988! – we meet Dennis (Christopher Nicolas Smith), a wedding videographer who preposterously tapes everything around the house. Julie (Lauren Bittner), the wife, is the first grown-up woman in this series who does not believe in all the spirit mumbo jumbo. Following an earthquake, caught on home video, Dennis shows a clip of ceiling debris that appears to have been tethered by spirits to his wife who remains doubting.
Nonetheless, Dennis wants to put up three cameras in the house to prove to himself, and to his occupational assistant (Dennis Ingram), that he’s living under a house that’s haunted. He’s also vexed by the younger of his two daughters. Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) has an “imaginary” friend who is really Toby from the spirit world. Toby is an abstract presence because he is not seen by anybody, but we get the feeling he has a deliberate attitude of being benign toward Kristi and hostile towards everyone else. Toby the ghost is like one of those predators that lures the gullible in with candy, except with him it’s more like a game of Simon Says.
The nighttime footage is once again in grainy black & white with a time code on the bottom of the screen, replicating the usual “Paranormal” set-ups with bumps in the night pay-offs. This time, the Dennis character devises a neat trick of setting up one of his cameras on a fan oscillator so it repeatedly pans left and right. As something happens on the left side of the screen, the camera goes right before it goes back left to reveal something… potentially terrifying. Mundane sounds are jacked up on the soundtrack, but the eerie quietness when Dennis opens a door at the end is… well… just what Doctor Giggles ordered.
89 Minutes. Rated R.
SUPERNATURAL HORROR / LATE TEENS AND ADULTS / FRIDAY AFTER DARK MOVIE
Film Cousins: “The Others” (2001); “Paranormal Activity” (2009); “Paranormal Activity 2” (2010); “Paranormal Activity 4″ (2012).