Crash Analysis: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011)

Greater than 2 less than 1 – and that ain’t remotely bad

A young couple moves into a house with two kids – and then there’s a poltergeist…

The first installment of Oren Peli’s ultra-low budget dramatic horror blew me away. Number two was mid-range and mostly forgettable, but in the third installment, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman delivered in grand comeback fashion.

PA3 focuses on Katie and Kristi Rey’s first brush with the entity that incessantly haunts Katie (Katie Featherston – who will also appear in PA4 later this year). Once again, strange sounds and bizarre occurrences lead to a stream of jolts that keeps the tension at a high level – with some excellent special visual effects that are cool, crafty and comprised of the “boo” factor.

Usually, I can’t stand horror movies with little kids because we know nothing really bad is ever going to happen to the little bastards. But Chloe Csengery (Young Katie) and Jessica Tyler Brown (Young Kristi Rey) did a fine job. The rest of the cast was solid and helped sell the creep factor all the way through.

Sure, some people trashed this movie, and for good reason. The third installment of anything, unless it’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS or, on a lesser scale, RETURN OF THE JEDI, there aren’t many showstoppers when a studio is milking a franchise to death. But this captured the surprise of the first movie quite well. After all, unlike most horrors that are clearly in the realm of fantasy so we can distance ourselves, the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY juggernaut does its damnedest to present everything as genuine – and handheld cameras and their gritty feel certainly add to making that work. And this air of reality may leave many wondering, “What if this could happen to me?” Hence, the troubled nights sleep.

For me, this franchise resonates because it’s exploiting my own childhood fears. And since I’m bringing my past experiences to the screen, I feel every friggin jolt.

As far as averages go, for my money, this is the best horror series – ever. Yes, I know I’ll get a lot of flack for that, but these movies rock my emotional world. Believe me, I’d love to say the HELLRAISER series, but like most franchises, subsequent features become either flat or just bad parodies of the original. For now, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is keeping it real, fervent and surprising, and let’s hope it continues when the latest foray comes to theatres on October 19.

SPOILER ALERT:

Granted, this third feature leaves us with questions, which will undoubtedly be answered in the fourth venture: Why didn’t the house burn down as Katie said in the first movie? Yes, she could have been lying, but who knows what’s to come and if the crazy coven wiped her mind free with a spell or something. And what happened to the girls’ mother? We’ll have to see where Peli, Joost and Schulman take us next.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars

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