Published Oct 21, 2011After the surprise success of last year's Catfish, directors Henry Roost and Ariel Schulman took on the gruelling task of co-directing yet another faux documentary-style project (this time with the viewers' acknowledgement) with this year's supernatural prequel, Paranormal Activity 3.
In spite of the fact that the latest money-making, low-budget follow-up to the hit thriller franchise doesn't re-invent the overdone handheld horror sub-genre in the slightest, the film is expertly shot, full of well-designed horror sequences, possessing a level of terror that will entertain and frighten viewers unaffected by the previous instalments.
After the cameo-friendly prologue, featuring doomed sisters Katie and Kristi (played by Katie Featherston and Sprague Grayden, respectively), the film switches gears and goes back to the sisters' childhood in 1988, where they first encountered the demon that would destroy them later on in life.
When the young Kristi (Jessica Brown) starts talking about an invisible man named Toby to her mother (Laurie Bittner) and live-in boyfriend, Dennis (Chris Smith), the couple assumes she's going through her "imaginary friend" stage. However, after eerie occurrences start happening at night in the house, Dennis decides to set up video cameras throughout their home and they soon find out that Toby is far from imaginary.
Sequels rarely live up to their predecessors, but because Paranormal Activity 2 disenchanted audiences by showcasing a haunted, floating pool light for over an hour of screen time, Paranormal Activity 3 is superior and exceeds expectations.
Unlike the first two films, this prequel doesn't waste half the film on "boo!" scares (although there are plenty), instead relying heavily on creative and new ways to genuinely frighten viewers. One of the film's highlights features a video camera resting on an oscillating fan and although watching scenes from this POV does get irritating, the film's biggest jumps and impressively shot horror set pieces are revealed while viewers are forced to wait for the camera to pan from room to room.
Also unlike the last two, Paranormal Activity 3 is fairly well acted, featuring features some pretty solid performances – Meet Monica Velour's Dustin Ingram is definitely a scene-stealer. Unfortunately, one of the film's biggest letdowns is its climax, which attempts to answer many questions, yet leaves more plot holes involving the first two films.
Although Paranormal Activity 3 isn't cinematic genius and will likely be avoided by die-hard horror fans, it's the franchise's best effort to date, making for this year's pre-eminent Halloween horror film. (Paramount)