Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Title: Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Directors: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman


The Paranormal Activity movies have all gone in reverse. The first film is actually the last chapter, and this new film called Paranormal Activity 3 is actually the first chapter of the ghostly saga. The idea behind these films is that a family is being harassed by demons, and always at some point a member of the family decides that it’s a good idea to whip out a video camera and try and capture supernatural events on film. We see the film unfold through the footage shot on these cameras. The gimmick behind these films is that Hollywood would like for us to believe that they are composed of real life “found footage”. We’re supposed to believe that somebody found these cameras after everything went down, edited the footage and that the result is the movie we’re watching. Of course, if you have a brain cell in your noggin, then you know it’s all bull crap and that these movies are the same as any old Hollywood production. The only difference is that they were shot to give the illusion that the footage was shot by a real person instead of a film crew. Neat trick,  but it’s not a new one. Films like Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and The Blair Witch Project (1999) had done it before, and quite successfully too.

Cannibal Holocaust did it first! 

The thing about these ‘found footage’ films is that maybe you and I know that they aren’t real, but a big number of people actually believe that they are. I remember when I came out from seeing The Blair Witch Project from the theater; I heard a person telling his group of friends (in a tone that led me to believe that he believed it himself) that it was all real; I was like “Man! Really?!” So yeah, these movies do convince some people that it’s all true. Hell, in the 1980’s the Italian filmmakers behind Cannibal Holocaust had to go to court and prove that they hadn’t killed their actors in the making of their film! Truth is, this documentary style of filmmaking does add a level of realism to the proceedings, and I dig that; even though I know it’s just a movie.

The popularity of this type of film has grown a lot over the past few years, and I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the success that some of these films have had. For example, Cannibal Holocaust and Blair Witch Project were extremely profitable, same as all of these Paranormal Activity films. Cloverfield (2008) made a huge chunk of change. Even George Romero has taken a stab at these kinds of films with his Diary of the Dead (2007). Apollo 18 (2011) is the most recent example I can think of. So yeah, these kinds of films are proliferating like bunny rabbits. The success of these films stems from the fact that they are extremely cheap to produce. The budget for the first Paranormal Activity was roughly 11,000 thousand dollars! The budget for this third entry was a 5 million, which is nothing when compared to what Hollywood normally spends on a film. The sweet part of the deal for Hollywood is that people love the realism that these films bring with them; they don’t feel like a movie. They feel like something you could have shot with your own video camera. As a result films like Paranormal Activity 3 can make more than 173 million dollars at the box office. So their success means that these films keep getting made. How did Paranormal Activity 3 do?

On Paranormal Activity 3 we meet Katie and Kristie when they were little girls. These are the two sisters that we’ve already met as adults on the previous two films. On Paranormal Activity 3 we see where it all began, we learn why demons are chasing them all through out their adult hood. Both girls befriend an invisible entity (read: demon) who talks with them. They call it ‘Toby’. One day, Katie and Kristie’s parents are making a sex tape in the privacy of their own home when suddenly, an earthquake interrupts them. Bummer. I know. But on the tape recording, they notice that when dust falls from the ceiling, it falls on something that looks like an invisible…something. What could it be? A ghost? So from there on in, they put cameras around the house to try and capture the ghost on tape. What they don’t know is that this is much more than a ghost. Were talking about a freaking demon!   

Was this movie effective as a horror film? It was in my book, it got me a couple of times with its boo scares. Its story about demons harassing the family was creepy, as is usually the case with films about this subject manner. A lot of people see the supernatural events depicted on these films as completely plausible, so of course they get freaked out by them. On these films, invisible beings from the great beyond are invading your home and physically and psychologically torturing you, of course the idea of that happening can be scary to many. Add to that the whole documentary style angle and you got yourselves a creepy movie. Paranormal Activity 3 gives us more of what we’ve already seen in previous movies. Doors that close by themselves, creepy sounds in the middle of the night, little kids talking to demons. On this one, they develop the story a bit further. It goes deeper into why this is all happening, in short, it finally gives us all the answers as to why these girls have always been bothered by spooky beings from the netherworld. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shinning (1980) was a huge influence over this one with it’s story about little kids talking to spirits. I remember, the kid in The Shinning spoke with an entity called Tony, on Paranormal Activity the entity is called Toby, so yeah, the similarities are there.

My only real gripe with these Paranormal Activity movies is the same kind of gripe I have for films like The Blair Witch Project. They don’t have much re-watch value. You seen them once, that’s all you are ever gonna need to see them. Second time they kind of loose their charm, the gimmick wears its welcome, the trick is up. I mean the thing about these movies is that they really don’t show us anything, most of the scares are in our heads, which in reality is a good thing. The best scary movies are the ones that don’t show us that much, they play with our minds; they play with ideas and emotions rather than with special effects. This third one was a mix of a good story and scares. Out of all the three films, I think this is the one I enjoyed the most because it has more meat to it. Even the scares that have nothing to do with demons scared the audience! That was one thing that I found interesting. The audiences so on the edge with these movies that even a scare with no ghosts involved will get them to jump anyways! I liked how the filmmakers played with the audience in that way. The filmmakers are totally aware that their audience is already a bit scared to begin with.  

This movie made so much money and made such a profit that more sequels are inevitable. Unfortunately, the next couple of Paranormal Activity films will probably be watered down versions of these first three. I’m afraid this series can only go down from here. Kind of the same way the SAW movies went downhill after part III. The third film in a series is usually the one where they try to pull all the stops, really blow you away. And I think they achieved this with Paranormal Activity 3. My only question is, where can you take the story from here? A new family? A new house? Whatever they come up with, I’m sure they’ll think of something to milk this series for all it’s worth. Or maybe they’ll surprise us and actually make a good fourth entry? Who knows? Only time will tell. But undoubtedly, we will be seeing more of these films, probably every Halloween for the next couple of years. If you ask me, this third one gave a fitting explanation to the story behind Katie and Kristie’s demonic torment. Any further developments will probably disappoint, but what do I know. Here’s hoping they prove me wrong.

Rating: 4 out of 5  

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