DVD REVIEW: Paranormal Activity 3

Having spent the two days prior to watching the film re-watching Paranormal Activity 2, discussing I think every possible plot line and possiDbility for the third film and generally working ourselves into an over-enthused frenzy, I think it’s fair to say my horror nerd boyfriend and I were rather excited about Paranormal Activity 3.

I also think it’s fair to say that we were not disappointed.

 Paranormal Activity 3 takes us back to the very beginning of the story. We've seen sisters Katy and Kristy terrorised by ghostly activity in the first two films, and we're now introduced to their younger selves. Through them we meet their mother Julie, her boyfriend Dennis, who, as a budding filmmaker, decides to set up cameras after an attempted sex tape reveals a paranormal occurrence, and we also meet the family matriarch in the form of the girls’ grandmother.

We watch as  Kristy begins communication with a sinister imaginary friend named Toby, whom we suspect from the outset to be the terrifiying demonic presence of the girls’ later lives.  Knowing as we do that a devilish, distinctly Faustian pact has gone on at some point in the accursed family’s history, and having met several new characters, the film takes on the lovely new level of a whodunit, as we puzzle over who the original soul seller might have been.

Never mind all that, is it actually scary? I hear you ask. And yes, I think it is. Perhaps even more so than its predecessors. Having collaborated with the team behind the hugely successful Saw films, on the gorgeously in- your- face haunted-  house horror Insidious last year, it is no surprise that the scares of Paranormal Activity 3 are far more visual than anything we have seen from the franchise before. As well as knocking you sick and terrifying you almost out of your seat at times, this play to the visual allows for a far more sadistic, and I'd even say a self referentially comic angle to the scares. There is one moment in particular which illustrates this, and all I will say here is that it is particularly ingenius...and that it involves a sheet.

The ultimate triumph of this film, however, lies in its attention to detail. There was a very real danger that 3 was going to be a montage of clips from 1 and 2, just with a few of the gaps filled in. But this is far from the case. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman have taken great care over this 1980s prequel, introducing us to a whole new set up which is as well thought out as it is engaging. Dennis’ status as a semi-professional film maker not only makes the cameras make sense in the context of the home, but, appropriately enough, gives a welcome lens of normalcy through which to view the rest of the film. Between Dennis and his fantastically gawky assistant, Randy, played to hilarious and oddly comforting effect by Dustin Ingram, we get a real sense of outsiders looking in on the action. This works brilliantly as this voyeuristic awareness is exactly the feeling we get as an audience when the unattended cameras are rolling.

This being a DVD review, the technicalities of the home cinema experience also deserve a mention here, and an honourable one at that, for this too has been intricately designed. At first, it seems as though the surround sound just isn’t working, or hasn’t been properly set up, but further watching reveals that it has actually been organised so that only the biggest, noisiest scares come through the speakers behind and surrounding your head. At one point, my boyfriend and I were so convinced that a blown bulb had actually happened in the room with us that we spent several minutes looking for it. It is worth mentioning for amusement’s sake that there weren’t actually any lights on, so I haven’t a clue what we thought we were going to find.

So there we have it. The film lives up to every expectation, has been planned to a tee and is just as unavoidably terrifying as the DVD cover boasts. In fact, my one complaint about this film, aside from how frequently I had to stop myself from leaving the room to avoid a hairy moment, is that I get the distinct impression that the franchise won’t end here, and I think it should have done. The film’s jolting, tense style of terror has worked perfectly up until now, and I’m just not convinced I can see anywhere new for Paranormal Activity 4 to go. 

And with the past having been dragged up so expertly here, I think it would be a great shame for any old material to be repeated in the future.

-         -  Jen

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